Tennessee Med — January 2011
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Brentwood Surgeon Uses Practice Profits To Help The Hurting
Linda Mclemore

Why would a successful vascular surgeon leave the comforts of Brentwood, TN, and travel to the most remote and marginalized parts of the world for a week each month?

David Va nderpool, MD, FACS, owner of Lavé MD, is driven by a passion to help the vulnerable of the world with his medical skills and with his medical practice’s profits. “I know I have been blessed and want to be a blessing to others,” he said.

DISASTER RESPONSE

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina garnered Dr. Vanderpool’s attention. He loaded medicines and took off for the Gulf Coast to care for those ravaged by the hurricane’s trail of destruction. “My heart was torn for those storm victims left without access to vital healthcare,” he said.

That same year, Dr. Vanderpool put his passion into action by founding Mobile Medical Disaster Relief (MMDR), a 501(c)(3) humanitarian nonprofit, supported mainly by profits from Lavé MD. MMDR is presently in 14 locations around the world, building clinics and hospitals, supplying medicines, and conducting medical clinics with teams of volunteers. “Our goal is to build at least one clinic or hospital to serve the medically needy of the world per year, and right now we are ahead of our goal,” said Dr. Vanderpool.

When a large scale disaster occurs, such as the Haiti earthquake, MMDR presses into action with “first responder” medical and logistical support. There are many chronic needs that remain after the Acute phase of a disaster has passed. Since January 2010, MMDR has traveled with medical teams to Haiti for one week every month, delivering urgent medical care and feeding the hungry.

HAITIAN RELIEF

"As the cholera outbreak takes hold, we are seeing more and more desperation in the eyes of the people," remarked Dr. Vanderpool. An MMDR team was in Haiti as the disease began spreading at breakneck speed. "Just as MMDR was able to begin concentrating efforts on programs to meet chronic needs, this grievous setback occurred. We will concentrate our efforts on meeting this outbreak head-on and attempt to stem its spread to Port-au-Prince," stated Vanderpool.

The highly skilled MMDR medical teams have discerned urgent chronic needs that demand attention as well, and action to alleviate them has already begun. "We want to be about getting the Haitian people back on their feet, but also about helping them begin to live a life of independence and sustainability," assured Vanderpool.

MMDR is tackling that goal on several fronts, he added: the organization is resolved to fitting prosthetic limbs for those who lost legs in the earthquake, so they can work and live with dignity; is funding projects at 10 orphanages that will feed the protein-starved orphans eggs, fish, and vegetables; is helping immunize Haitians against tetanus to prevent further deaths; and is educating Haitian mothers about how to care for the health needs of their Children. “This is a life-saving project that will sustain itself, and keep giving,” he said.

Dr. Vanderpool recalled one family devastated by the earthquake whose survivors have been touched by MMDR’s efforts:

“The MMDR team was just finishing a medical clinic in a dangerous area outside of Port-au-Prince, and four girls approached us. The teenager was carrying a baby on her hip and her two younger sisters were by her side. They asked for something to eat but after they answered a few of our questions, it was clear they had been orphaned by the earthquake and were caring for themselves on the street for the past three months. We found out the baby was a product of rape and that the area they were living in was a dangerous place for unprotected girls after dark. We were able to find a place for them in an orphanage, and now they are safe and cared for. It was easy for Us to do, but without our help, I shudder to think of where they would be today. They are now benefitting from the MMDR microenterprise project at the orphanage that feeds protein to all four girls daily.”

Although many Americans poured their hearts and dollars into Haiti after the earthquake, the needs are still profound. Handouts will simply cause more dependence by the Haitians on others, Dr. Vanderpool said, adding the charity emphasis is now focused on independence and sustainability. MMDR has heard that cry and is responding.

JOIN MMDR

MMDR would like to offer physicians, especially those with emergency medicine and primary care expertise, an opportunity to accompany a medical team on a weeklong trip to Haiti. Medical teams visit Haiti One week every month. The Haitians are now suffering from chronic after-effects of the earthquake, and care for these medical problems is urgently needed.

Physicians can register for the disaster response team at the MMDR website, www.mmdr.org. They will be contacted as 2011 Haiti dates become available, and will also be placed in MMDR’s database to contact as disasters happen globally.

Many doctors have said they would like to help others in this way, if they had a logistically sound vehicle through which to access meaningful volunteer work. MMDR is that vehicle and can use the help of Tennessee physicians.

Donations to MMDR can be made online at www.mmdr.org, or mailed to 5409 Maryland Way, Suite 214, Brentwood, TN 37027.
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