By Claire Lachance, President and CEO of ReSurge International
This month, I celebrate my first full year as President & CEO of ReSurge International — what an incredible year it has been! My ReSurge anniversary also coincides with the start of what our team refers to as “trip season”— when our Surgical Team Training Trips resume after the summer hiatus. Both these milestones have prompted much reflection on my part, in particular regarding the profound impact of my first ReSurge team trip back in February — an experience that drove home for me the transformative power of reconstructive surgery.
In February, I embarked on my first program trip to ReSurge sites in Nepal and Vietnam. Over the course of this journey, I saw firsthand the needs of the communities we work in and how ReSurge localizes solutions to meet those needs. I was often reminded of ReSurge’s vision: A world where no one suffers needlessly because of a lack of access to life-changing reconstructive surgical care that is safe, affordable, and timely. This vision and its implications were front of mind as I visited our sites in Hanoi and Hue, Vietnam and as I spoke with the patients of our Nepal Country Director, Dr. Shankar Rai and his team in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The Nepalese patients shared stories of hope as they awaited life-changing treatment in the clinic waiting room – but one young man in particular stood out to me.
When I met Sajarul, I learned that he had been terribly injured in an explosion at the auto shop where he worked in the Eastern Tarai region. His hands were badly burned and disfigured. This injury robbed him of so much – he couldn’t drive his motorbike, he couldn’t work, and this left him entirely dependent on his brother. I also learned that Sajarul was only 25 years old. Without treatment from the ReSurge clinic in Nepal, he faced decades of disability and little hope of building a life that would truly be his own.
Since 1969, ReSurge has helped patients like Sajarul reclaim their lives through reconstructive surgery. But the need for this critical care is ongoing, and it’s greater than many people realize. Today, an estimated five billion people across the globe lack access to surgical care. In all, surgical conditions account for 30% of the global burden of disease – a number far too high to ignore.
Amid this high level of need, ReSurge surgical outreach sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America offer hope to patients who have nowhere else to turn. Our goal must always be to increase the sustainability and reach of our impact in order to move toward a future in which our vision is a reality. Today, this leads us toward a new model for our work – one that emphasizes localization, scalability, and capacity building. Capacity building for local teams via train-the-trainer methods ensure that local surgical teams are able to serve their communities long after the team of ReSurge Medical Volunteer trainers leave. This impact is both substantial and intersectional, multiplying the influence of each individual surgeon.
When ReSurge teams increase surgical access for a low-income population, they affect more than a region’s health care system. Patients regain the abilities to go to school and to be gainfully employed in society, leading to further impact on economic development and education. According to a study we conducted in Nepal, each surgeon trained by ReSurge will treat an estimated 9,000 patients during their careers, boosting the global economy by $25 million annually.
In closing, I’d like to return to the young man I met in ReSurge’s Nepal clinic. Luckily, the surgeons were able to help him. After his initial surgery and follow-up procedures, Sajarul has been able to return to work and become self-sufficient again. Sajarul’s story strikes at the heart of the work we do at ReSurge: We eliminate unnecessary suffering, and we restore patients’ ability to live their lives fully. As I begin my second year at ReSurge, I’m eager to work together to provide thousands more patients with the same opportunity we were able to give Sajarul!