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Dr. Elwood MacMullin; A Man on a Mission

The responsibility to help the underprivileged isn’t something Dr. Elwood MacMullin, a general surgeon in Sydney, N.S., takes lightly.

“The world is full of people in need of medical and surgical attention but without the means to access them,” he says. “I believe we have a moral and ethical duty to share some of our bounty with the needy of the world.”

His first international medical mission was a six-week trip to a charity hospital in Arusha, Tanzania in 2008, where he provided general, orthopaedic and obstetrical/gynecological procedures for hundreds patients.

“After that, I began to look for other opportunities to do volunteer surgical work,” he says.

Three years ago, he learned about the American College of Surgeons’ “Giving Back” program, which partners with local workers to identify patients in rural parts of Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Haiti who need surgical procedures, then recruits volunteer surgical teams.

Drs. Elwood MacMullin and Rex Dunn with Guatemalan interns.

Drs. Elwood MacMullin and Rex Dunn with Guatemalan interns.

“In Guatemala, most of the patients are Mayans located in remote rural villages,” says Dr. MacMullin. “They do heavy agricultural labour to support their families, and surgical illnesses (like hernias) make that work difficult, if not impossible.”

The surgeries the volunteers provide can change lives.

The trips require months of preparation and extensive fund-raising. Everything on the trip – from airfare to hospital services to meals for patients – is funded by the volunteer teams.  

Dr. MacMullin recruited two surgeons, two anaesthesiologists and eight OR/recovery room nurses to his team. It was vetted by the American College of Surgeons in 2013 and has since made two missions to Guatemala, one in February 2014 (60 patients treated) and a second in February 2015 (almost 100 patients treated). A third mission is scheduled for 2016.

“There are people in need, and they deserve as much compassion and care as any other person,” says Dr. MacMullin. “We have the skills and resources and it is our privilege to be able to share with them.” 

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