From the Editor

This month we are excited to announce NIFA’s major charitable commitment to Mission to Heal, a global nonprofit that focuses on healing the sick and injured and training local practitioners in the poorest, most remote regions of the world.

Given the high-tech equipment found in most American healthcare settings today, it’s inspiring and humbling to read about Mission to Heal and its founder, Dr. Glenn Geelhoed. Dr. Glenn often finds himself bringing a medical team to Ghana or the Philippines or Ecuador or wherever, into a setting where there’s no electricity, no lights, minimal equipment—just patients in need of care, and local healers who are eager to learn new skills.

As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I hope you can take a few minutes to read about Mission to Heal and ask yourself, it about time to go on a medical mission or look at other ways to help?

Then scroll down to read about the adventure that started it all, when Dr. Glenn was a first-year medical student.

We also bring you our latest collection of RNFA jobs and NIFA’s favorite links.

Happy reading.

Julie Lancaster, Editor

NIFA Announces Major Gift to Mission to Heal

image006_Geelhoed_and_student_in_NIFA_scrubsSince 2003, NIFA has sponsored several RNFA grads to participate in medical missions with Mission to Heal.

Operating on ingenuity, improvisation and a shoestring budget, with a knack for avoiding governmental red tape, Mission to Heal brings teams of volunteers to far-flung, isolated villages on several continents, performing medical and surgical procedures that the people there would not otherwise be able to access.

Unlike most medical mission organizations, M2H is dedicated to “indigenizing” medicine by engaging native healers in those villages to join the team and get training on the medical/surgical procedures, so that when the M2H team leaves, the healers have enhanced skills and are empowered for the benefit of future patients.

The volunteers on the team invariably have unforgettable, stirring and eye-opening experiences—gifts from the poor, as M2H founder Glenn Geelhoed, M.D., calls them. “We think we’re giving something of ourselves, and it turns out we find we’re the recipients of more.”

This year NIFA brings its own gift to the table. Beginning in May, and for the next 12 months, NIFA has pledged a significant, monthly contribution to Mission to Heal.

“Giving back is hugely important to us at NIFA,” says NIFA President John Kekos. “We are very aware of the many blessings we experience living in this country and working in the healthcare industry, and we are grateful for NIFA’s success. By contracting to send a monthly donation to Mission to Heal, we can help provide some consistent revenue for one of the most worthy causes we know.”

Mission to Heal’s commitments have been growing as the organization prepares to launch its second mobile surgical unit. The first one is in Asia (in the Philippines now, headed for Mongolia later) and the other is in Africa.

“This is a lifeline for us,” says Dr. Glenn. “NIFA has just made the kind of operating budgetary allotment that will allow us to continue with the missions we have planned.

“I can assure anyone our overhead costs are in negative numbers,” he adds. “M2H is an all-volunteer organization.  For every dollar we are given, we come up with ten. We match and use wisely because we want to make sure our efforts are sustainable.”

Mission to Heal: Bringing Hope to the “Bottom Billion”

Two billion people worldwide have no access to basic surgical care. Mission to Heal medical teams travel to places where medical need is great and where medical help is under-resourced or nonexistent. Dr. Glenn Geelhoed and his teams operate with limited supplies, often without electricity, often with only local anesthesia.

Village_full_of_people_outside_a_railroad_car_or_truckTheir patients are stoic and grateful; the supporting caregivers are resourceful and generous in the extreme. Often against a backdrop of civil war, refugee camps, deep geopolitical instability, poverty, and indifference, the medical teams and the indigenous communities respond with humility, perseverance, and uncommon resilience in order to bring hope to the “bottom billion” of the world.

Upcoming missions include the Philippines, Mongolia, Ghana and Ecuador, among others.

You can read stories of past missions and students’ experiences on the organization’s website and Facebook page. And here are links to some past stories by NIFA-trained RNFAs who have accompanied Dr. Glenn:

 How Dr. Glenn Got Started

Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, AB, BS, MD, MA, DTMH, MA, FACS, is founder of Mission to Heal, an advisor to NIFA, and an occasional instructor in NIFA’s RNFA SutureStar workshops. He has an impressive academic record, has written several books and more than 500 published journal articles, is a professor of surgery at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington D.C., and has received many awards. You can a read short bio here. This is the first in a series of articles we will be running about Dr. Glenn and his work with Mission to Heal.


When Dr. Glenn Geelhoed (the man with the beard in the above photo) was a freshman medical student, he heard about an opportunity to help kids in the third world who were dying of diarrheal disease.

“There was a simple method of treatment, if you could find a way to start an IV and get a catheter into them,” he says. “It was simple, it was cheap. There wasn’t a nickel’s worth of investment required to learn what was the cause of death—it was just a matter of political will and the economics of being able to get there.”

He got himself down to the Dominican Republic and found himself in a setting with blue ocean, gleaming sands, palm trees waving. A Caribbean paradise. Except that, shortly after his arrival, helicopters appeared behind those palm trees and there was strafing on either side of him. He was in the middle of the republic’s civil war, and Lyndon Johnson had sent in the 82nd Airborne. Read more . . .


Click here for the RNFA job postings we’ve collected for you this month.