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Hackensack University Medical Center Team Members Reflect on an Essential and Meaningful Medical Mission
Story Number is : 120417100
Hackensack University Medical Center

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center-affiliated doctors and nursespartnered with the LIG Global Foundation and a team from Saint Barnabas Medical Center to embark on an essential and meaningful medical mission this past June in Dajabon, Dominican Republic.

Co-founded by Sarah Timmapuri, M.D., chief clinical information officer at Hackensack University Medical Center, and her husband, Ernani Sadural, M.D., director of Global Health at RWJ Barnabas Health, LIG Global is a 501(c) 3-designated non-profit providing charitable medical aid to communities in need.

At the request of the community, the collaborative team cared for more than 250 patients over nine days performing necessary, elective surgeries on 100 patients. Dozens of the surgeries were major procedures. If not for the presence of these volunteers, many of these surgeries would not have been possible.

“It was a transformative experience,” said Sanjeev Kaul, M.D., director of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention at Hackensack University Medical Center, a leader of the volunteers. “I was grateful for the opportunity to be of this kind of service.”

The volunteers traveled by using vacation time, and covering their own expenses. Volunteer physicians, Pranay Vaidya, M.D., chief of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory of the Heart & Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, and Dr. Timmapuri were unable to join this trip, but consulted via telehealth for pre-operative cardiac risk assessments including EKG and bedside, hand-held focused echocardiography.

“As much as we provided life-changing treatments for patients and families, they provided an eye-opening life-changing experience for our health care team,” said Evan Epper, RN, a clinical level III Endoscopy nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center, and a veteran volunteer. “We worked with only one IV pole and no basic equipment, like stethoscopes or blood pressure machines, unless the volunteers brought them. It was extremely hot with no air conditioning. Families of patients brought fans from home to help.”

In one of the critical cases, Dr. Kaul recalled, “We arrived with days to spare, caring for a patient who had a high fever, and helping to resolve a life-threatening problem.”

The team was also able to assist local physicians in advancing surgical procedures, performing the first prostatectomy at the facility (resection and removal of the prostate) on a patient who was incapacitated and unable to travel to Santo Domingo for treatment.

“It was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with other surgeons and share knowledge and best practices,” said Dr. Kaul.

Hackensack University Medical Center-affiliated volunteer team members also included Asha Bale, M.D., Maria Victoria Torres, RN, and Angie Rivera, medical assistant and billing manager.

“On behalf of LIG Global, we were proud to partner with this extraordinary team,” said Dr. Timmapuri. “They are ideal representatives of our mission to provide medical aid to communities in need and we are grateful for their service.”
The LIG Global Foundation involves its Youth Network under the leadership of high school students, Amina Sadural and Dillan Prasad, in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s GlobeMed chapter. A number of youth volunteers participated in this trip.

Dr. Kaul’s son, Avikar, a recurrent volunteer with the Youth Network, was instrumental in organizing charts, transporting patients, and providing personal support and company to patients before surgery if they were nervous. The Youth Network also volunteered at a local school in Dajabon for children with special needs.

“It was extraordinary to see how excited he was to help people,” said Dr. Kaul, who described his experience with his son as one that will stay with them forever. “It was gratifying to see how our team made a difference in the lives of these people – and to see how they touched our lives as well.”

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