Dennis Gore, M.D., and Katie Kimbrough, M.D., surgeons at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, operate on a patient in the Dominican Republic as part of a medical mission trip.
The story of how a group of University of Texas Medical Branch physicians, residents and alumni went on a surgical medical mission to help some of the Dominican Republic’s poorest residents has its beginnings several years ago.
How the entourage ended up in one of the poorest parts of the Western Hemisphere begins with UTMB surgeon Dennis Gore, M.D., and UTMB alumnus Bert Hart, M.D., who practices in Bryan and who co-founded the Hispaniola Medical Charity as a way to honor his late father, a well-respected surgeon in the Dominican Republic city of Puerto Plata.
“Bert and I had done medical missions to Guatemala for years,” Gore said. “I would see Bert and his father at medical meetings, and Bert’s father would invariably ask, ‘Why don’t you go to Puerto Plata?’”
Years later, Hart and Gore honored that request, and upon arriving in Puerta Plata, were overwhelmed by the welcoming arms of its people. Gore, also a UTMB alumnus, said one reason he volunteers is to assist people who truly need help.
“People cry out of happiness and gratitude,” he said. “We don’t make money. We pay our own way. It’s my own time, but what you get is this tremendous sense of personal satisfaction - of helping someone.”
Matt Dacso, M.D., director of UTMB’s Center for Global Health Education, traveled with the mission group last month. He came away impressed with Gore and Hart’s Hispaniola Medical Charity, but even more so with the UTMB volunteers.
“It was amazing to me how these alumni have stayed close and have decided to donate their time, money and effort toward serving the poor in the Dominican Republic,” Dacso said.
It’s through the work of the charity group that UTMB’s global health programs have begun long-term collaborations in the Dominican Republic, which allow students and faculty to work on education and research projects that benefit impoverished communities, Dacso said.
The group hosted fundraisers in Galveston and Bryan and raised about $30,000 for supplies that filled more than 40 medical trunks. Mission members also donated medical equipment and unused supplies to the hospital in Puerta Plata.
Over four days, the team of 27 treated and operated on patients for dental issues, gall bladder problems, sinus problems, vein conditions, to name a few. They performed more than 60 surgeries and 56 vein procedures. The vascular surgeon, by the way, is Hart’s brother, Hugo, who practices in Florida.
“We try to do the most good while we’re there,” said Gore, “doing what we thinks offers the greatest benefit.”