The team, through the International Perfusion Association, operates the “Heart To Heart” philanthropic cardiac surgical mission to Santiago, Dominican Republic founded by Robert D. Pascotto M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon of Fort Myers, Florida. Since September 2002, our teams have orchestrated three mission trips annually. Since then, we have operated on 310 patients with excellent results.

This program was initiated to fulfill a void and need for cardiac surgery at Jose Maria Cabral y Baez Hospital in Santiago, Dominican Republic. This is a 520 bed public hospital that cares for indigent patients and serves a population of 4.2 million people. There is no cardiac surgery in the area for private or non pay patients. The hospital has a medical school and residency program for postgraduate education affiliated with it. The patients are mostly young individuals with valvular heart disease. When not treated with antibiotics rheumatic fever can result in rheumatic heart disease affecting the valves of the heart. The aortic and mitral valves are mostly affected and need replacement. This disease process while still endemic in the DR is almost not existent in the US. Coronary bypasses are also performed for coronary artery disease. As you realize these are very costly operative procedures.

Our cardiac surgical team to the Dominican Republic of 16 members is comprised of very qualified nurses, technicians, and assistants, cardiac surgeon and cardiac anesthesiologist, who are not only using their personal vacation time and spending time away from their families to make these journeys, but are also paying their own way to do so. They are from all parts of the US including OH, IL, TN, CA, WI, CT, IN, MD, PA, NY, NE, VA, Ml, TX as well as multiple locations in Florida. We have been fortunate to have superb individuals volunteer from both the academic and private practice settings.

This is an all volunteer mission with no paid members. While there we have educated young Dominican doctors and hospital staff in the care and treatment of the cardiac surgical patient. Lectures have been given. Informal talks have been given to various staff members at the bedside in the care of the cardiac surgical patient.

As a direct result of our program we have generated strong interest in young doctors in cardiac surgery. At present there are two individuals who are in US surgical programs and expect to continue in cardiac surgery and subsequently return to Santiago to practice cardiac surgery, a most rewarding aspect of our program. Our goal is to establish an ongoing program.

This program is strongly influenced by the tradition of service that physicians and the medical profession embrace. It provides a mechanism to gain insight into the importance of global vision and understanding in today’s world. This emotionally rich and rewarding experience benefits not only the patients and their families, but has dramatically affected all team members personally. Patients that have been operated on have returned to work and now are contributing to their families and to society.

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