An increasing number of doctors in New York City are flooding Africa to help fill the enormous gap in health care, and the situation is getting more desperate every year. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
Every two months, Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei leaves his post as chief of scoliosis service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and flies across the Atlantic to tend to the needs of desperate patients in Ghana.
"Ghana has 26 million people. There are only 15 orthopaedic surgeons," Boachie said. "On the block that I have at special surgery, we have 15 spine surgeons and 70 orthopedic surgeons in one hospital."
Dr. Boachie was born in Ghana and knows first hand just how critical the need is for more surgeons. In 1998, he created a not-for-profit called FOCOS, short for the Foundation of Orthopaedics and Complex Spine, and he rallies doctors here in New York to join him at this hospital in his homeland to help save the lives of patients who have nowhere else to turn.
Some 475 volunteers from New York help patients with spinal deformities and numerous other conditions.
"We see them so late," he said. "They have to do very complicated, heroic operations to save them."
Another organization called "Face the Future" enlists local reconstructive surgeons to help disfigured patients in Rwanda.
Dr. Sydney Butts from SUNY Downstate said Rwanda has only one plastic surgeon for a nation of 11 million people.
"When I hear a number like that, the days I feel overworked, I just say, 'Get over it,'" she said.
Dr. Butts uses her skills as a surgeon to help people of all ages with facial trauma and congenital deformities.
"The end product is so rewarding," she said. "You can get someone to a place where if they were injured, you can get them back to where they were before. And the gratitude is incredible. Patients hug you."
FOCOS and The Face the Future Mission said they have no shortage of volunteers to help patients in other countries, but what they need most are sponsors to fund the operations because the need is overwhelming.
For more information, visit www.orthofocos.org and facethefuturefoundation.ca/site.