Physicians Partner at Saturday Surgery Day to Change Lives
Erik Stark, MD, a physician volunteer for Project Access San Diego and an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists of North County, knew he would make a real difference in the life of a 19-year-old college student when he agreed to volunteer for a pro bono surgery day at Carlsbad Surgery Center on October 22.
Joining fellow surgeons Adam Fierer, MD and Eileen Natuzzi, MD, both veteran volunteers for Project Access San Diego, the flagship program of the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation, Dr. Stark improved the health of low-income, uninsured community members, including Codi Dantu.
Codi, a Poway resident, is on the Dean’s list at Miramar College, and a long-time soccer player. She injured her ACL during a soccer game in May 2011 and has been unable to participate in many of her normal activities since then. She has lived with considerable pain for over a year, and was referred to Project Access by Neighborhood Health Care.
“Soccer is my first love,” says Codi. “I am a very athletic person, and not being able to be active is hurting me mentally as well. This surgery will help be to be able to play soccer again, and I can focus more on my studies and worry less on how to pay for such a costly procedure.”
Health insurance through Miramar does not cover this type of surgery, and Codi’s family no longer has health insurance since her father’s business took a major hit in the recession. Codi expressed her gratitude for PASD setting her up for surgery with such caring physicians.
September was the third Saturday Surgery Day sponsored by SurgeryOne’s Carlsbad Surgery Center, and 11 patients’ lives were changed that day. Providing the facility, and recruiting volunteer physician assistants, nurses, techs and other staff, Carlsbad Surgery Center CEO Scott Leggett and administrator David Douglass sought to assist Project Access to improve the health and change the lives of community residents.
“Our physicians came to us after providing volunteer medical care in Third World countries, and asked why they could not do the same here at home,” said Scott Leggett, CEO of SurgeryOne, the owner of Carlsbad Surgery Center and three other ambulatory surgical facilities. “We agreed, and recruited the staffing necessary to support the physicians, as well as provided the facility and supplies needed. We are committed to helping improve the health of community residents, and are thrilled to partner with San Diego County Medical Society Foundation and Project Access.”
Anesthesia Services Medical Group President Mark Ransom, MD, led a team of three anesthesiologists and techs to assure patient care. This was his second Saturday Surgery Day at Carlsbad Surgery Center, although ASMG partners regularly with Project Access, providing pro bono anesthesia services for surgeries at the hospitals and outpatient surgery centers that provide care for patients of PASD’s physician volunteers.
“Without our physician volunteers, and the generosity of partners like SurgeryOne and ASMG, we could not provide this kind of care for those in the community that most need our help,” says San Diego County Medical Society Foundation executive director Barbara Mandel. “It is a huge team effort with more than 40 volunteers that day. And Codi will also benefit from physical therapy provided by Graybill Medical Center to assure a full recovery.” More than 625 physician volunteers have assisted over 1,800 patients to regain their health since Project Access’ initiation in December 2008, and over $5,6 million of pro bono care has been contributed by physicians, hospitals and outpatient surgery centers, and other ancillary health providers. The program was launched thanks to the efforts of James Hay, MD, current CMA president, and the founding president of the SDCMS Foundation, based on other models he had studied across the country. There are currently more than 100 access programs in the US, each using a different model to address access to care issues.