San Jose State University Students Operate Mobile Health Clinic in Honduras

Dental issues, parasites, hypertension, bacterial infections and colds: these innocuous-when-treated medical issues can be lethal in a community lacking in resources and medical service.

In 2010, two groups of San Jose State University students committed to travel to Honduras to treat community members with illnesses like these with dignity and respect.

Volunteers serving in Honduras

A lofty goal, sure; but by recognizing the power of many and utilizing resources like MedShare’s MedTeam Store, these students served over 300 patients over the course of two trips in 2011.

Lily Yu, President of the San Jose State University Chapter of Global Medical Brigades, shared with us her account of the trip:

On behalf of the San Jose State University Global Medical Brigades team, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the MedShare Team for all of your help and support once again.

San Jose State University students serving in Honduras

In the summer of 2010, a team of 20 students came together to achieve a common goal: provide access to health care to a part of the world where it was limited. With MedShare’s help, we were able to successfully operate mobile clinics to help treat some of the most preventable health issues in San Antonio de Oriente, Honduras.

Our first medical brigade was in January 2011, where we successfully mobilized a free clinic to Honduras, treating over 300 patients with severe wounds from working on sugarcane fields, intestinal parasites, hypertension, bacterial infections, dental issues, and coughs and colds that have turned lethal due to the community’s location and lack of resources. After this first brigade, we knew that our work could not end there. In order to keep healthcare accessible to this community, my team and I decided we needed to continue our efforts.

Children in Honduras

In February 2011, we assembled another team of 25 student volunteers to mobilize a clinic back to Honduras for a brigade on August 14-20, 2011. I reached out to MedShare, and was delighted to hear that we had your support once again. Because MedShare believed in our work, we were inspired to serve San Antonio de Oriente again, where many new patients lined up to receive the care they deserved. We see the positive impact we made in this community in January and in August, and know that our efforts have helped improve their quality of life.

MedShare has empowered our organization to help change and impact the world, one healthy patient at a time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and hope to continue our efforts with your support.

If you would like to learn more about MedShare’s Medical Mission Team Store, click here.

This story is an excerpt from our January e-news. To read more – including a story of fate’s role in a Haiti container delivery and an incredibly dedicated high school volunteer – click here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Nanetta Pon

Nanetta (front, center) at a 2011 container shipment ceremony

“Nanetta Pon has volunteered with us 60 times (that’s 180 hours!) since she first started in April 2009 when she was only 14 or 15 years old. She has the most hours of any of our volunteers under age 18. She volunteers out of her own motivation; not because she has to fulfill some community service requirement.

We enjoy working with Nanetta. She is willing to do anything we ask and she works hard during the time she’s here. It is impressive that she keeps coming back when I know she has a very busy schedule with high school and other outside activities.” – Terry Monday, Volunteer Programs Manager

Name: Nanetta Pon

Age and Occupation: Seventeen-year-old high school student

Hometown: Fremont, California

Please describe yourself in one sentence.I like to get involved in great causes.

When did you first hear about MedShare? I found it while searching on VolunteerMatch for opportunities open to teenagers.

How would you describe your volunteer experience at MedShare? Wonderful! The volunteer coordinators and other volunteers are always welcoming, sorting is fun, and I learn something new about medical procedures every time.

How long have you been volunteering at MedShare? Since 2009

What inspired you to get involved? I’d been involved in my school’s recycling program, so it was MedShare’s environmental side that first interested me. I liked the idea of keeping supplies out of landfills. It was only after I’d started volunteering that I realized how much it was helping save people’s lives.

What is it that motivates you to keep volunteering at MedShare? MedShare is great about letting each volunteer know that he/she is making a difference, from the flags to the pictures to the stories people come in to tell. They keep me inspired to keep coming to the warehouse.

Have you been involved with MedShare in other ways besides sorting supplies? If so, please explain. This is more about MedShare helping me out: Last year I received a giant box of old, unsortable gloves to bring to my school. We’re still using them during our weekly sort of the school’s bottles and cans.

What has been your favorite MedShare moment or story during your time serving with us? After the iPad came out, one of the sorters accidentally got our table excited over a box of eye pads.

This story is an excerpt from our January e-news. To read more – including a story of fate’s role in a Haiti container delivery and a college MedTeam in Honduras – click here.

MedShare Recognized by the State of California for Their Commitment to Waste Reduction

MedShare, a top-ranked local charity, was named a 2011 Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP)winner by the State of California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

MedShare receives CalRecycle's WRAP award

The WRAP awards honor California companies and nonprofits for workplace solutions to cut their waste output and reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills. MedShare was recognized for their efficient recovery and redistribution of surplus medical supplies and equipment that helps to improve the environment and healthcare for the medically underserved. This is the third consecutive year the nonprofit has received the honor.

“This year’s WRAP winners are evidence that businesses and organizations of all sizes are achieving significant waste reduction and recycling goals, all while helping protect the environment and preserve our natural resources,” CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen said.

MedShare launched California’s first large-scale medical supply recycling center in 2008. They collect unused, unexpired surplus medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and medical distributors. These are items that would be destined for landfills, but instead, MedShare redistributes them to needy hospitals in developing countries as well as community-based health clinics throughout California.

“MedShare continues to deliver innovative solutions for healthcare providers that want to green their operations and we are honored that our waste reduction efforts are being recognized by the State of California,” said Chuck Haupt, Executive Director, MedShare’s Western Region. “In cooperation with leading hospitals and manufacturers we were able to divert an amazing 228 tons of surplus in 2011.”

In Northern California, there are more than 30 hospitals participating in MedShare’s innovative Hospital Recovery Program. These hospitals recognize the local environmental benefit that their contributions have, as well as the impact that they will have on people’s lives around the globe.

In 14 years of operation, MedShare has shipped over 750 forty-foot shipping containers of surplus medical supplies and equipment abroad, which accounts for over two million cubic feet of landfill space saved.

TechNation Magazine: Biomeds Give Back | Repost

MedShare was prominently featured in the January issue of TechNation Magazine, and we wanted to share the article with you. Click here to view the entire online magazine, or read the article below.

Biomeds Give Back

Surprising ways to use your skills for the greater good

By: K Richard Douglas


It’s better to give than to receive . Found originall y in the Bible , peo ple who have adopted this philosophy know it is true, including several biomeds we interviewed this month about their charitable efforts. Most will tell you that they feel great fulfillment from giving. They’ll also tell you that giving does not always refer to money or things – a donation of time and specialized skills can be equally helpful and rewarding.

Several charities across the U.S. recycle medical equipment and get that equipment to patients, hospitals and health clinics that might otherwise not be able to afford it. Teams of doctors and other health care specialists from the U.S. volunteer their time to perform medical procedures in developing countries, as well as for uninsured patients in the U.S. 

Acquiring and maintaining working medical equipment is often cited as one of the most difficult challenges volunteers face.

The opportunity to be a part of these volunteer activities is always gratifying for the participants. Several charitable organizations specialize in health care missions, and each cite medical equipment support as a constant need. In areas where there is a shortage of medical equipment, there is almost always a shortage of people who have the proper training and tools to maintain that equipment.

“I am a big proponent of volunteering, and I encourage anyone who enters this field to use the talents they have to give back to society,” says Kelly VanDeWalker, CBET. “I have and still do volunteer for various organizations,” VanDeWalker says, including a Medical Missions company in Indianapolis. VanDeWalker finds ways to put his specialized training to use in the volunteer arena through “contacts I have made over the 30 years I have been in this profession.” 

The need for health care volunteers in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti last January was overwhelming. Medical Dealer and TechNation covered the stories of several biomeds’ experiences of the aftermath. “I traveled to Milot, Haiti, for my fifth trip the last week of October 2011,” says David Sieminski, State Treasurer for the California Medical Instrumentation Association and the board representative for the group’s Capitol Chapter. There, he volunteered as a biomed at the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in northern Haiti.

Sieminski trained two Hatian biomed tech trainees on ventilators, skills they would use long after he was gone. “I also volunteered my services to American River College and taught an entry level biomed tech class on ventilation. I also volunteered my service again to American River College and taught an eight hour respiratory ventilation class for second year students and other biomed(s).” Volunteering veterans say offering training is one of the most helpful things they can provide. Without properly trained biomeds to maintain it, the value of any donated medical equipment sharply declines. 

Sieminski has found several personal benefits to charitable work. “My volunteered time has been both the most rewarding and educational. I suggest doing charity work to expand your knowledge as well as to improve your social networking skills. As a volunteer to Haiti, I have been studying the language (Creole) and can now at least ask for what I need and understand what they need. 

It’s easier than you think to get involved. “There are places and companies that help support your charitable work if you make them aware,” Sieminski says. “What a great way to spend a vacation.” 

MedShare, a nonprofit organization that distributes medical supplies and equipment in developing countries, would agree. The organization recently helped convert a former University of Georgia campus bus with the staff and students at the Chattahoochee Technical College’s Biomedical Engineering Technology program to help teach young biomeds about volunteering. The refurbished bus will be used as a mobile medical clinic to screen for diabetes and hypertension in Ghana. Instructor Dr. Mike O’Rear and his students helped create the mobile medical clinic to aid the people of Ghana. When MedShare became aware of the need for such screening, they contacted Dr. O’Rear about initiating the project. MedShare will stock the bus with unused medical supplies gathered from U.S. hospitals. 

Med Share and the Biomed Niche 

There is a great need for biomeds in many of the nation’s charitable organizations, MedShare representatives say. The need encompasses a spectrum, from performing repairs and maintenance, to providing training, to evaluating donated medical equipment and even assisting with OEM and other industry contacts. 

“Biomedical/clinical engineers and their departments can contribute to MedShare’s Hospital Recovery Program simply by being ever-mindful of our needs,” says Angie Bryan, Strategic Sourcing Manager at MedShare. The aggregator and distributor of surplus medical supplies and equipment has two locations: in Decatur, Ga., and San Leandro, Calif. 

“Any time equipment is no longer needed by [your] program, it can be donated to MedShare, provided it is in relatively good condition. We also accept and need items that go along with biomedical equipment, such as tubes and other items needed for proper operation. If a department has a good relationship with a manufacturer, they can facilitate a connection for us. Many of our best partnerships have been formed in this way,” Bryan says. 

Equipment that has reached the end of its useful life in this country can still be used overseas, if properly maintained. Two staff biomeds evaluate and repair all equipment donated to MedShare, but the organization also seeks biomed volunteers, especially in California, the Mid- Atlantic and South Florida, Bryan says. 

MedShare donated supplies enable hospitals worldwide to provide better care

“Though entirely dependent on the proximity of biomedical/clinic engineers to each of MedShare’s two warehouses (Atlanta and San Leandro, Calif.), we would welcome skilled engineers to assist in the assessment and repair of equipment.” 

Biomeds can also help by promoting awareness of equipment needs in developing countries to the health care facilities, ISOs and OEMs they work for. “Med- Share has a great need for equipment. It is often the No. 1 item requested by our recipients,” Bryan says. “Consequently, it is also the most difficult to come by.” 

Medical Missions Foundation 

Medical Missions Foundation grew out of the need to help impoverished children in the Philippines and went on to serve the medical needs of children in 12 countries. Among the organization’s objectives are to provide surgical and medical care for children and adults and to provide donated medical equipment and supplies to economically depressed areas. Additionally, the nonprofit provides medical training to local health care providers. 

Shanna Goodman, Director of Development and Marketing for Medical Mission Foundations, explains. “As our key mission is to provide surgeries for the disadvantaged children of developing countries, we always greatly appreciate the donation of time, services and equipment of biomedical and clinical engineers and their departments.” 

“Biomedical engineers are instrumental in assuring the equipment we take on missions is of sound quality and function. We receive equipment donations from generous hospitals and private practices and they often need an inspection and tune-up prior to the mission. We’re able to pay that generosity forward in many instances in which we leave the equipment in-country for the local hospitals to utilize,” Goodman says. 

Medical Mission Foundations can also use the help of biomeds to accompany them to the distant locales they serve. “We have several longtime volunteers that have helped us immensely in setting up or repairing equipment on site,” Goodman says. “Equipment on site can be a challenge as the amenities such as electricity and generators can be in short supply or have intermittent accessibility.” 

Goodman also sees benefits to biomed professionals beyond the good feeling that comes from volunteering time. “Volunteering services for Medical Missions Foundation domestically or traveling internationally on a mission provides the opportunity for biomeds to hone their skills outside the normal day to day operations of their work. Many of our volunteers say that in working in developing countries allows them the opportunity to see things that they have only otherwise read in textbooks.” 

“In addition to direct medical care provided by MMF doctors and nurses, educational components in the form of hand washing, nutrition, dental hygiene and burn prevention are also incorporated as frequently as possible with the module offered based on the need of the country. Uganda and Romania have had a high need for burn prevention awareness and since MMF has provided education, instances of ‘new’ burns have decreased in Romania,” Goodman says. 

“Further, medical missions teams have clinically trained and equipped hundreds of medical professionals and hospitals to perform procedures previously unavailable in these countries. For instance, a Kansas City surgeon conducted the first knee replacement surgery in Bohol, Philippines, on our mission in September 2011. Over the years, millions of dollars worth of donated supplies and in-kind medical services have been shared with the medical personnel and patients in the economically depressed countries that we serve.”

Since its inception, “MMF has completed 62 missions in 12 countries, directly impacting more than 41,000 children and their families through surgeries and clinics.”

Brother ’s Brother Foundation 

Myron Hartman, MS, SASHE, CCE, CRES, CBET, Program Coordinator for the Penn State University Biomedical Engineering Technology program has been a volunteer at Brother’s Brother Foundation since the late 1980s. While working as Director of Clinical Engineering at South Hills Health System, Hartman would take along a couple of biomeds and test equipment for the organization. 

In more recent years, Hartman continued his work with the organization, enlisting some help from students. “Since I have been teaching at PSU the past 10 years, I have traveled with BBF to several local cities tagging equipment that could be used and have taken my students to BBF to do volunteer work in checking medical equipment,” Hartman says. 

“In 2010 I received a call from Luke Hingson, president of BBF, asking me about helping with a project in Liberia, Africa. My goals were to evaluate the medical equipment needs, repair as much as I could, train as many individuals as I could, and then format a plan for long-term medical equipment support.” 

A January 2011 trip took Hartman to Liberia to work at three hospitals over a 10-day period. Hartman planned to make a longer trip during the summer, but health considerations at home altered those plans. He decided instead to bring two biomedical technicians from Phebe hospital in Liberia to the U.S. 

“During that time I trained them on medical equipment skills and provided them the resources for them to be instructors when they return home to train others. We also raised funding for them to rebuild their biomed shop. They have completed their shop renovation and are ready to begin the next phase of the project,” Hartman says. 

Brother’s Brother Foundation has been around since 1958 and has served the needs of people in 140 countries. Those needs have been educational, humanitarian and medical. The organization’s website lists donations of “12,014 tons of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and hospital equipment” that have been shipped to more than 1,000 hospitals and clinics.

What can you do?

 Hartman’s substantial experience has provided him with valuable insights for biomeds considering similar volunteer work. He suggests finding a local organization like Brother’s Brother Foundation where you can donate used medical equipment. 

“Donated medical equipment must be in working condition, have all accessories and cables, operators and service manuals and any spare parts. It also must be suitable for use in the hospital receiving the equipment with supplies readily available,” he says. 

Hartman suggests that if you locate a local organization that does work like Brother’s Brother, you can volunteer to visit their facility to “check, repair and identify equipment that should or should not be shipped.” 

“Donate your used tools and test equipment. Most biomed shops in developing countries have little to no equipment to service or check medical equipment analyzers, simulators, DMM, electronic test equipment (or) hand tools,” Hartman suggests. He also recommends cash donations and donations of electronic service manuals. 

But what if you don’t have time to travel to volunteer? There are some ways you can get involved right now. Hartman suggests that biomeds identify themselves as a resource “for someone to telephone or e-mail questions on service, calibration, parts and operation of a medical device.” 

Hartman would like to bring together the combined experience of volunteers who have been involved in medical equipment support. “I am hoping to return someday to continue the medical equipment support and training in Liberia. In talking with my peers in the profession who also do similar volunteer work for medical equipment support in developing countries, we are planning a session at the next spring MD Expo in Florida. There are many individuals and organizations providing medical equipment support, so why not join forces so each one of us is not having to create something new? We can share ideas, resources, contacts, and create a network of sharing that can benefit the volunteer, which in turn will benefit the recipients of the work.”

Thanks, TechNation! We are honored to have been included.