CEO Corner: MedShare in New York

On December 8th, 2011, MedShare’s New York Regional Council hosted a dinner at The University Club to welcome MedShare to New York. Our CEO and President Meridith Rentz gave an inspiring speech which we wanted to share.

“As Seth [Zachary, MedShare Trustee] shared, I have 3 little boys…..they were certainly a key motivation for me to become a part of this extraordinary MedShare team. I am delighted and honored to be here this evening to share more about the important work MedShare does every day.

Are there any other mothers in the room? What about fathers? Daughters? Sons? Brothers? Sisters? Okay – I think we’ve covered just about everyone. Close your eyes please – just for a moment. Imagine, if you will, being a pregnant mother at term and going to your local hospital only to find out that in order to deliver your baby you must go to the store and purchase the supplies you need in order to ensure a safe and successful delivery – but you have no money to do so. This is a common occurrence at a hospital in Uganda. Now, imagine delivering a premature baby only to find out the hospital doesn’t have an incubator and so your child will be transported in a shoe box by a motorcycle ambulance to another hospital in order to get the care she needs. This happens every day in Haiti. Now imagine your brother being in surgery and the anesthesia machine failing. This happened in Colombia. Fathers, imagine losing your son because the hospital at which he was born didn’t have something as simple as this, an endotracheal tube with infant resuscitation mask. This happened in Niger.

MedShare CEO Meridith Rentz speaking at the NY Benefit

These are difficult stories to hear. This past September, when the special envoy from the office of the First Lady of Haiti visited us at MedShare, she told us about the motorcycle transport of low birth weight infants. After she finished speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Those stories sit heavy, so heavy on your heart. If these situations were to occur in the United States, the outrage would be instantaneous and enormous. Lawyers would be called. Politicians would be stirred up. Op-eds would be written. Protests staged. Unfortunately, – and perhaps even outrageously – this is the status quo in many developing countries. A hospital or clinic may have the most talented, the most committed doctors and nurses in the world……but if they don’t have the critical supplies and equipment, there is often little they can do to save the lives of those patients that depend on them.

While we certainly have some challenges with our health system here in the United States, we are typically not lacking for supplies. In fact, as was shared in the videos, the US health system throws away millions of tons of medical waste per year, much of which is useful surplus created as a result of procedural excess and our regulatory environment. Surely we’re capable of finding a way to recover these items and get them into the hands of talented medical professionals caring for the mother in Uganda, the children in Haiti and Niger, and the brothers and sisters in Colombia.

Well, I have good news. In this case, we don’t need a protest; we don’t need op-eds; we don’t require the help of politicians. You see – MedShare is that bridge between our U.S. surplus and the tremendous need across the developing world. Here is the same endotracheal tube with infant resuscitation mask that the doctor in Niger needed to save a child’s life. It would have gone to a landfill if MedShare didn’t have the systems in place to recover it. We have hundreds of these items in our inventory right now and they are being ordered every day by the recipients we serve. We are taking something that is being discarded right here, every day by New York hospitals and getting it to a place where it can mean the difference between life and death.

The MedShare concept is simple – we take something that is no longer useful in one context and get it to another where it is. A place where it can improve healthcare and save lives. We do this in a way that values the dignity of the recipients and actually allows them to choose box by box exactly what they need. This high quality, responsible model that was developed carefully and thoughtfully by co-founders A.B. Short and Bob Freeman 13 years ago has been lauded through national studies by the Catholic Health Association and others.

Simple, yet powerful. Simple, and yet it takes a lot to make this happen. In order to create that bridge between surplus and need, MedShare needs hospital partners; we need suppliers and manufacturers; we need thousands of volunteers; and MedShare needs financial support. We need help from you.

In our early days, we recognized that there was nothing unique about the medical surplus in Atlanta, and our Board committed to developing an organization that – when appropriate – could be replicated and expanded into other communities. As Seth mentioned, the New York Tri-State area has more hospitals than any other market in the United States. This need was confirmed as part of a national pro bono expansion study conducted for MedShare by Accenture. So MedShare has developed a world-class, proven model and New York has the largest potential medical surplus in the U.S. that is not being systematically and comprehensively gathered. Any way you look at that equation, it points to the fact that hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved if MedShare joins this New York community and works in partnership with all you and many others.

In fact, even before we have had a chance to set up a facility here, we have been overwhelmed by the support of our tremendous New York Council, led by the extraordinarily committed Sandy Tytel. We were extremely honored to be selected by the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the nation, to handle their surplus supply and equipment donations. Already, we have 80 collection sites throughout the system. North Shore LIJ “champions” have been to Atlanta for training, and have taken that knowledge back to train their staff to utilize this program. We recently processed a donation of 400 late model hospital beds from North Shore LIJ. Thanks to the The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation’s sponsorship, 150 of those beds have already been shipped to Accra, Ghana, to benefit needy hospitals there. We have another shipment planned to benefit a series of clinics in Peru scheduled for January. We have also received donations of IV pumps and poles from North Shore and are in the process of handling donations of baby incubators, anesthesia machines, and other useful equipment. Soon, this equipment and supplies will be in the hands of doctors and nurses across Africa and South America and will quite literally allow them to save lives.

MedShare has worked with Dennis Lynch and Sandy Tytel to send a container to Sunyani, Ghana, to benefit the charity health care facilities operated by the Catholic Church. Our MedShare team has worked with New York Drs. Julius Garvey and Allan Abramson to send a container to Jamaica and we are engaged in a project with North Shore LIJ employees from Sierra Leone to send a container there. With the support of excellent product manufacturers and distributors like Henry Schein, Covidien and Kimberly-Clark, we are able to supplement our recovered supplies with newly manufactured product.

While substantial, these results garnered over the past 6 months barely scratch the surface of MedShare’s potential community impact in New York. As we grow our physical presence in this market and establish a distribution center, we will be able to equip local medical teams, send hundreds of containers of medical supplies, and divert millions of cubic feet of medical surplus from area landfills. We will also create thousands of volunteer and civic engagement opportunities to mobilize the residents of the New York Tri-State Region in meaningful, high impact service. The potential is enormous.

Just like with any new venture in the for-profit world, before we can proceed with this next exciting phase in the New York market, we must attract seed capital and develop the key relationships required to support the MedShare model. We need introductions to hospitals, potential philanthropic donors, and volunteer, religious and civic groups who might want to become involved in MedShare’s mission.

I began my remarks by talking about real, specific stories that members of the MedShare team have experienced over the years. Unfortunately, those stories are not the exception to the norm – rather, the need in developing countries is truly exponential. There are 7 billion people living in the world today and billions of them live in poverty on less than $2 per day. Simply put, this world of ours needs more MedShare. This world – more specifically, mothers in Uganda, children in Haiti and Colombia, families in Niger, and countless others – they need the support of this New York community.

As you step up to this challenge, you have our commitment that MedShare will continue to be the bridge between New York medical surplus and tremendous need in developing countries. We will work hand-in-hand with the New York community, to save lives around the world, and keep surplus from ending up in your area landfills. On behalf of the millions of women, men and children whose lives have already been improved by MedShare supplies and equipment, THANK YOU for all you have done and all that I know you will do to help us to fulfill our mission of bridging the gap between surplus and need.”

This was part of our December 2011 newsletter. To view the rest – including stories on our expansion into NY and FL and our new videos – click here.

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2012 On the Horizon: A Year for Expansion

This is the time of year for reflection, thankfulness, and gratitude, and also the time to chart our goals for the year to come. What’s on our radar? In two words: gratitude and expansion.

MedShare Trustee Dan Goldberg and CAO David Pass with John Stamos and the Beach Boys

We must first look back before looking forward. We at MedShare have a lot to be proud of this calendar year. In the 2011, we hosted more volunteers, supplied more medical mission teams, and turned over more supplies than in previous years. We continued with our environmental focus, hired a new CEO, instituted a regional council in New York, and not only shipped containers of life-saving medical supplies and equipment to 40+ countries, but also supported our own country by shipping two containers to Alabama in response to April’s devastating tornadoes. Most importantly, we shipped more containers than ever before, and in doing so, had a positive impact on an incredible number of lives around the world. In essence, we have successfully continued to bridge the gap between surplus and need this year.

Much time and energy went into our achievements, and we’d like to recognize those that have made this year’s successes possible. Thanks to A.B. Short, our co-founder and former CEO, for the vision you and Bob Freeman had 13 years ago. Thanks to the Board of Trustees for driving the search to bring in Meridith Rentz, our new CEO and President. Thanks to Meridith for the talent, passion and tireless energy you bring, and your commitment to take the organization to the next level. Thanks to our hospital and corporate partners for the supplies, equipment, and services you give; without them, our work wouldn’t be possible. Thanks to our incredibly generous supporters for allowing us to have a successful year of development in a down economy. Thanks to our volunteers for your dedication in sorting and packing countless boxes of supplies. Thanks to all MedShare employees for tirelessly working to better ourselves and others. Thanks to our recipients for partnering with us towards the common goal of improving healthcare worldwide. And finally, thanks to those that have contributed towards our potential expansion into South Florida and the Mid-Atlantic.

In the words of our recipients: merci; gracias; mesi, obrigado; cảm ơn ông; shukran; amesege’nallo’; naa goodee; tenk-kee; ngiyabonga; asante.

We have achieved much, but we can do more still. We can save more lives and space from landfills, and strengthen more healthcare systems. We can give more volunteers a meaningful experience and engage more hospitals and corporations in partnership.

To do all this, we are strongly exploring our expansion opportunities in two markets: South Florida and the New York Tri-State Region. MedShare was recently introduced to both communities through events held in each region.

On October 27, 2011, MedShare Trustee Daniel Goldberg hosted a Beach Boys concert at SPIN Ultra Lounge benefiting our expansion efforts into Florida. The event was well-attended, not only by the Beach Boys and John Stamos, but also by a generous local crowd. Thanks to all who made it possible! Click here to view photos of the event, and here to learn how you can help bring MedShare to Florida. We are currently working with consultants in the region to meet prospective partners, and hope to enter the region in 2013.

On December 8, 2011, the MedShare New York Regional Council hosted an event at The University Club to introduce MedShare to the region. We’d like to give a special thanks to Seth Zachary, Chairman of Paul Hastings, Sandy Tytel, Council Chair, Laureen Knutson, Anita MacDougall, Jackie Wasp, and Olivia Ayala for the event’s success. Ms. Rentz gave an inspiring speech to the attendees that conveyed the great need for a MedShare in New York. The New York Tri-State area has more hospitals than any other market in the United States, and MedShare has developed a world-class, proven model. This is an equation that would add up to hundreds of thousands of lives saved were MedShare to enter the region in 2012. Click here to read Ms. Rentz’s speech, here to view photos from the event, and here to learn how you can help with the effort.

You – our stakeholders and supporters – are the fuel for the MedShare mission. You’ve enabled us to achieve more, and we are so grateful for everything you’ve done. We hope you’ll join us in the coming year as we grow our model and have an even greater impact.

This was part of our December 2011 newsletter. To view the rest – including our new videos and a great last minute gift idea – click here.

The MedShare New York Tri-State Regional Council Hosts Benefit at The University Club on December 8

Medical surplus recovery and redistribution nonprofit enters the New York Tri-State Region

The MedShare New York Tri-State Regional Council is hosting a benefit to welcome the award-winning nonprofit MedShare to the New York Tri-State Region on December 8 at 6:15 p.m. The presenting sponsor for the event is Paul Hastings LLP, a leading international law firm.

MedShare is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that recovers medical supplies from hospitals and manufacturers and sends them to underserved healthcare facilities in developing countries while lessening the impact of medical waste in the United States. The organization has delivered 740 40-foot containers of humanitarian aid to health facilities in 88 developing countries.

“MedShare makes a significant impact, but we can do more,” said Meridith Rentz, CEO of MedShare. “The New York Metro area has the largest number of hospitals per capita in the United States and we are excited about the opportunity we have to bring our award-winning model to this community.”

The event is hosted by members of the MedShare New York Tri-State Regional Council, including Sandy Tytel, Chair, Alan Cohen, Donna Drummond, John D. Feerick, Michael R. Irwin, David Knott, Laureen Stanton Knutsen, Dennis E. A. Lynch, Anita MacDougall, Irwin Merkatz, MD, Jacqueline M. Wasp, J. Craig White, and Seth M. Zachary.

Trustee and Council Chair Mary Bersot Named Finalist for Community Leadership Award

Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair, was recently named a top-three finalist in the “Volunteer of the Year” category of the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and InvestmentNews.  As part of this honor, she traveled to New York on September 14 to attend the group’s fifth annual awards ceremony, and had the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell the following morning.

Mary Bersot, Trustee and Council Member, representing MedShare in NYC's Times Square

Mary has been involved with MedShare since 2008, when we expanded to Northern California. Her leadership and fundraising efforts were instrumental in making this expansion successful during a recession, and she continues to build community awareness of our mission to responsibly recover and redistribute surplus medical supplies to those in need around the world.

We’re thrilled to share Mary’s account of this incredible honor and trip, in her own words:

“It isn’t often that an individual can take the spotlight and represent an organization such as MedShare in front of 600+ people, and then in Times Square. I recently had that privilege, however, when I was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by Invest in Others and InvestmentNews in the Volunteer of the Year category. Clearly, it wasn’t me that was nominated. It was MedShare, and I was honored to represent this incredible organization.

First, I didn’t expect to be one of the three finalists and was surprised and honored to be included. On September 14th, my husband and I went to New York for the Invest in Others’ fifth annual awards ceremony to honor financial advisors who make a difference in their communities. We were also invited to ring the opening NASDAQ bell the following morning with the other finalists and sponsors. I have been in the investment business over 30 years and my dream has been to ring the bell and launch another trading session; I had no idea that I would feel such emotion and pride at being part of MedShare.

Upon entering the dining room the night of the awards ceremony, I was in awe when I saw the photo of the recipient country flags on the wall of MedShare’s Western Distribution Center on the main screen. This photo was chosen as part of the colorful backdrop as we met the other finalists, and I couldn’t help but recognize the sharp contrast between the lavish ceremony and the folks we serve both at home and abroad who couldn’t imagine such a fine event. Those flags helped me stay focused on why I was there.

I am just as happy making labels for the boxes of supplies bound for Haiti as I am taking a bow in front of 660 people. What those attending the reception didn’t see were the thousands of volunteers and staff behind the scenes that have made it possible to ship over 700 forty-foot containers full of much needed medical supplies to countries around the globe. One person can’t possibly take credit – it’s truly a collective effort. The contribution MedShare makes to global health is enormous, and as the story was told throughout the event more and more people expressed a genuine interest.

It was overwhelming to think that I was recognized by my peers at the event, and the next morning I found myself as excited as a kid entering Disneyland when I walked onto the NASDAQ set. I didn’t really care if the market was opening higher or lower – I was just excited to be there. We had our individual photos taken at the podium, which were then projected outside on the 3 story NASDAQ tower in Times Square. We rang the bell as a group and went outside, where we had our photos taken again. I had no idea that behind me would be MedShare’s logo projected two stories high for all of Times Square to see! I felt such pride and excitement. Now I know what it means when someone mentions their fifteen minutes of fame!

I am proud to be part of an industry that gives back and to have had the opportunity to share the MedShare story with the many remarkable people I met. My hope is that the recognition MedShare received those two days continues forward so many, many more lives can be saved.”

-Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair

This article is an excerpt from our October e-newsletter. For more – including a letter from CEO Meridith Rentz, our Clinton Global Initiative Commitment with icddr,b and Americares to strengthen health systems in Bangladesh, and how to get your family and friends involved – click here.

Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA) 10th Anniversary of 9/11 Inter Faith Gathering

By Clint Fluker, MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow

Sana and I stood side by side at the crosswalk watching silently as dozens of people from all directions trickled into the Decatur Hotel Conference Center in Decatur, Georgia. When the traffic light turned red we joined the crowd into the lobby of the hotel where over 600 people representing six different faiths (Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs) gathered to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Clint Fluker, MedShare's Faiths Act Fellow, at a 9/11 Interfaith Gathering in Decatur

As we moved through the lobby toward the main hall two lively women hopped in front us bearing quiz sheets. Wide eyed and smiling, they welcomed us to the interfaith gathering, introduced themselves, their religions, and through hysterical laughter held up their sheets to ask, “Are you Muslim? Because we really need some help with some of these questions?”

I stood mute shaking my head. The onlooker’s eyes glazed over me and focused on Sana. Sana nodded. The two women jumped for joy and presented their sheets which were filled with bingo-style questions stemming from all the religions represented at the conference. Sana answered their questions about the prophet Muhammad; the women thanked her graciously and moved on to the next set of unsuspecting arrivals.

The interfaith questionnaire was one of several mechanisms used throughout the evening to help foster interfaith dialogue. Consequently, when we entered the main hall we saw hundreds of colorful faces glaring at us ready to pounce with interfaith questions. We answered questions about Islam and Christianity respectively as we made our way to two open seats.

The ceremony began with a welcome and introduction by a representative from the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta (FAMA) who brought our attention to the beauty of the diversity in the crowd. Next, he pointed to a painting by Norman Rockwell, “The Golden Rule,” that was projected prominently on each wall. The speaker then yielded the floor to religious leaders from all faiths present to recite their interpretations of The Golden Rule according to their religious texts.

This presentation was followed by several musical performances, prompted interfaith discussions, and poetry readings. However, perhaps the most powerful moment of the evening was a reading by author Carmen Agra Deedy. Deedy retold a story from a man on the ground in New York City who witnessed the World Trade Center buildings fall. During this story she urged everyone in the audience to face the memory of 9/11 head on, take the lessons we have learned from that day, and apply them to the future in the spirit of peace.

The evening came to a close with a candle light vigil. The silence in the room during those few moments was only broken by quiet tears and prayerful whispers. When the bell rung to mark the end of the gathering, I surveyed the dimly lit room to see newly made friends and strangers alike embracing each other. Baring witness to the bonds of unity formed through the sharing of faith traditions, I opened my arms and joined in.

To learn more about MedShare’s Faiths Act Fellow, click here and here.