HERO medics celebrate 14 yrs of medical missions

Guyana’s Health and Education Relief Organization (HERO) brought holiday cheer to St. Stephens Church hall in Brooklyn on Dec. 11, to share and celebrate the group’s medical missions to Guyana during the last 14 years.

The humanitarians enjoyed the festivities during an evening of stirring deejay music and festive Guyanese fare, but what was uppermost on their minds, was the success of their 2014 mission to Georgetown in August, where for the first time, the team completed laparoscopic surgery, on four citizens in rural Linden on the East Coast of Demerara.

President of HERO Colle Oudkirk, MD, explained that the team is choosing laparoscopy as an alternative to shorten patients’ hospital stay and standard care. “Open surgeries will now only be performed in critical cases,” he said.

The organization that was launched in December 2000 by Dr. Oudkerk and Tallahassee, Florida-based Dr. Wayne Sampson, conducts twice-yearly medical missions to Guyana where the Kidcare program has improved the lives of hundreds of children, many who needed surgery of the lower extremities, such the repair as clubfeet.

Dr. Oudkerk who specializes in emergency medicine at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, teams up with Dr. John Mitchell, director, Trauma/Acute Care Surgery with Geisinger Community Medical Center, in Scranton, PA, and Dr. Harrison Mitchell of New York’s Columbia Hospital.

Michelle Wan of Jamaican heritage is an emergency room physician at Dekalb Medical in Lithonia, Gegoria, and also a member of HERO board of directors.

“We have make progress with our operation Kidcare, a program headed by Chief of Orthopedics, Dr. Claude Scott, that will expand. Hysterectomy will be included in the 2015 mission,” added the physician who plans to also take an oncologist to Guyana, to attend to the large number of women who have developed cervical cancer.

He added that going forward the team would expand the OBGYN and general surgery program to attend to the much needed care of thousands of Guyanese.

Dr. Oudkerk said that their Chinese counterparts in Guyana are on par with the work they do, including the training of doctors.

The August 2014 mission included 30 nurses, physicians, pharmacists and pre-health students who dedicated their time to serving those less fortunate in need of medical care.

The three-arm organization that includes literacy, medical, and surgical programs, in addition to a cancer program – HERO/C, headed by Lorna Welshman-Neblett, holds an annual Gala and Awards Dinner and a breakfast morning to raise much need funds to carry out its mission.

The organization receives donations of equipment and supplies from hospitals.

HERO’s mission is to help students grow into well-rounded professionals, as it provides basic health care to Guyanese in rural and inner city areas.

The organization also works to bring members of the community personal health education, as well as literacy advancement programs for students, and participates in various volunteer and service opportunities in Tallahassee, Florida.