Medical Missions for Children

by Claudia Hudson

"We do this in an effort to empower the underserved medical community and to raise their level of expertise, allowing them to share this newfound knowledge with colleagues, and to treat their patients more effectively."
Yordano, an 11-year-old boy from rural Panama born with a cranial deformity, and <a href=http://www.mmissions.org/top/first_child.html>MMC's first patient</a>, along with his doctor.
Yordano, an 11-year-old boy from rural Panama born with a cranial deformity, and MMC's first patient, along with his doctor.

Medical Missions for Children and its Global Telemedicine and Teaching Network is an inspiring not for profit organization that helps bring up-to-date medical care into underserved communities worldwide through cutting-edge medical broadcasting technologies.

Their system of 'telemedicine' allows doctors and patients in underserved, often rural or remote hospitals and medical centers around the globe, to teleconference with top-notch doctors and specialists in tier-one medical institutions in the United States.

Due to a disparity in updated medical knowledge, doctors and allied healthcare workers throughout the world that are faced with children with catastrophic illnesses and injuries, are often unable to treat or in many cases, even diagnose them properly. Using the video equipment installed in their hospitals by MMC and Polycom (who donates the satellite time), they are able to request outside medical expertise through the Medical Broadcasting Channel.

Through MMC, the specialists needed to carry on the interchange necessary to serve the doctor and patient best, are accessed. These U.S. specialists provide their services free of charge, as humanitarian work. Through remote diagnostic consultations and follow-ups, once the specialists are able to make a diagnosis, treatment is suggested and carried out. This 'sustainable workforce' of doctors impacts an immense number of patients.

In addition to helping save millions of lives around the world, these broadcasts are taped and archived at Montclair State University, in what has become the most expansive medical video library on earth, housing over 25,000 hours of medical education. MMC is also working to translate these videos into Spanish, to better serve Latin America.

MMC is able to accomplish all they do thanks to both state-of-the-art technology, and to a series of important and generous partnerships, which include St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in New Jersey, Polycom Corporation, Intelsat Ltd., Montclair State University, and the World Bank.

The international community as a whole has taken notice. Last year [2006], alone, they recieved an unprecedented five major, very prestigious awards: the Stockholm Challenge modeled after the Nobel Prize which named them one of the top five healthcare entities in the world, the Purpose Prize, the Tech Awards selected them as an Agilent Technologies Foundation Health Award Laureate, Contact Center World selected MMC as the "Best of the Best" among all global charities, and Charity Navigator listed them for the 2nd year in a row as a 4-star charity, a nearly-impossible feat to achieve, particularly for a project only 7 years old!

The driving force behind Medical Missions for Children are Frank and Peg Brady, husband and wife former-retirees, and co-founders of this amazing project. Alberto Salamanca, a former UN Ambassador and diplomatic liason, serves as president of MMC's Latin American division. MY HERO was honored to speak to these three lifesaver heroes, and to learn more about Medical Missions for Children from those who know it best....

Frank Brady, CEO and co-founder
Frank Brady, CEO and co-founder

Frank Brady, CEO and co-founder of Medical Missions for Children, spoke openly with MY HERO about his life's passion...

As a child, Frank nearly died from spinal meningitis, and when all hope was nearly lost, was saved thanks to a (then) new experimental drug -- penicillin. He ventured into international business in his professional career, and in the process, travelled to many third world countries where he saw suffering first-hand. He always felt he had to one day make a difference in the lives of others. Upon retiring, he and his wife of 37 years decided to start Medical Missions for Children, to help children around the world suffering from catastrophic illnesses and having insufficient or outdated medical care to help them. What started with just he and his wife Peg, in a tiny office behind the boiler room of St. Joseph's Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, has grown into an international organization, present in over 100 countries, and helping millions of needy children (and adults) worldwide.

 

What led you into the world of philanthropy?
My mother was always saying I was spared and I was supposed to do something special. When you retire you begin to reasses your future, and you realize that there are a lot of years left to do something good for the world. It was like, OK, that part of our life is over, now what do we want to do with the rest of it, How can I leave the world a better place from my being here?

How did you come up with the concept for MMC?
Because of my own life experience, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to help catastrophically ill kids. All the [overseas] medical missions, while noble, typically always deal with children that are more easily treatable. But what about the kids that are catastrophically ill and none one can figure out what's wrong with them? We wanted to help those kids.

Initially your work began in telemedicine, and then seems to have branched into overall medical education...
As we did the telemedicine sessions we found that 32% of these kids were being misdiagnosed. We also saw that doctors had all kinds of questions to ask -- about procedures, dosages, prescription cocktails, etc. That's when we really realized that there was a huge knowledge gap. Our mission has become to facilitate the link between research and the introduction to new protocols and new medical findings. Almost everything we are doing now is aimed at educating physicians around the world. Now the [international] doctors don't just talk to us -- they talk to one another, raising the level of medical knowledge within their own countries. In Latin America, for example, they have huge Friday teleconference meetings with one another.

Is there any particular story or child that resounds in your heart?
We first set up a pilot program between St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and El Hospital del Nino in Panama. Our very first case was a child (Yordano) that was missing half his head. That case was so unbelievable, and yet it was our first patient! We have never seen anything worse than it since, and we felt that if we could get through that, we could get through anything.

You and your wife and those at MMR are true heroes. Who's YOUR hero?
I think someone like Mother Teresa who dedicated her whole life to helping the sick, infirmed, and unfortunate.

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Peg Brady, Executive Director  and co-founder
Peg Brady, Executive Director and co-founder

Peg Brady, Executive Director and co-founder of Medical Missions for Children,also spoke with MY HERO about the work she and Frank are so passionate about...

Peg serves as Executive Director and CEO, while Frank serves as Founder and Chairman. Peg makes it her mission to hold relationships with underserved hospitals around the globe, traveling internationally on a regular basis, and visiting with patients and staff. This year she plans to go to Macedonia.

What sparked your passion in global medical care? What led to you and your husband creating Medical Missions for Children?
We've always done things together. This work actually started around the kitchen table. We wanted to help the medically underserved. We knew that medical [humanitarian] missions typically focused on children with more easily curable illnesses or defects. We realized there were many catastrophically ill children being left untreated; those are the children we wanted to focus on.

We partnered with Polycomm who supplies all our video conferencing. In doing the work, we saw that there was such a disparity of healthcare. We asked doctors what they wanted, and time and again they said they wanted more education, so we have been working to provide them with updated medical knowledge since. We started small and it has grown and grown since.

 

What has been the most fruitful part of your involvement?
Seeing it grow. Seeing the appreciation from doctors and patients. Seeing how pleased the doctors are at obtaining the medical information, and what they can do with their newfound knowledge. It just keeps building and growing from one to another.

What has been your proudest moment so far?
That one little smile for one little child. It's just amazing. You get so much more out of it than you ever put in.

Is there any particular location or story or child that resounds in your heart?
There are two in particular. One is a little boy from Panama -- he was actually the first child we teleconferenced. He and his mom actually came and lived with us a total of 1.5 years total, during his various operations. He was a twin and was missing half his head. Now he has a life... becfore he never did. Another is a little boy from Brazil who has an enormous tumor on his back. We're trying to find a way to help him. It's going into his spine and has shifted his organs. Doctors are worried that when puberty hits (he's 11), the hormones will go crazy and cause the tumor to grow even more rapidly and damage his organs. We are doing all we can to help him; they are trying chemotherapy next.

What do you envision in MMR's future?
Our goal initially was to to help one hundred kids. Then the goal was to help 1 million. Now we want to help ten million kids. The more kids we can help, the better.

 

You and your husband and those at MMR are true heroes. Who's YOUR hero?
My husband, actually. He's just so passionate about what he's doing.

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Alberto Salamanca, President, Latin American Region
Alberto Salamanca, President, Latin American Region

MY HERO also spoke with Alberto Salamanca, President of the Latin American Region of Medical Missions for Children...

Mr. Salamanca currently resides in Mexico City and has held a variety of diplomatic and corporate positions globally, making him a perfect international liason for this special project. Having served as the Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, as well as variety of other high diplomatic liason positions for Bolivia with the Middle East, in addition to having been VP of the editioral board of Opinion, Bolivia's daily newspaper, and CEO of the Shelter Development Group in Florida, Salamanca is well-traveled, well-versed, and well-aware of the international need for proper medical care and instruction.

How did you become involved with Medical Missions for Children?
The founders, Frank and Peg Brady, started this not for profit in 1999. I met them when I was Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations. They suggested I join their Board of Trustees to expand the work into Latin America. I started by doing work in Bolivia in the telemedicine field.

What has been your biggest struggle so far in Latin America?
Language has been our biggest struggle so far, as the majority of archived footage is in English. We are addressing this issue by translating the English-language programs into Spanish in partnership with Mexico's Children's Hospital. We are also working on establishing a Spanish health television station called el Canal de La Salud. We will then, in turn, give copies back to the Montclair video library of medical knowledge in the U.S., so that they too will have the Spanish versions. Montclair currently houses over 25,000 hours of our medical videos.

Connectivity is our other main problem -- how do we reach the most impoverished areas in Latin America via IP? You can have the whole set up... but you will still have areas where people don't even own a television set, let along have Internet access. So how then do we go about reaching the greatest number of people who would benefit and profit so much from this resource. This is something we are working on and are considering various resolutions for.

 

What Latin American countries or locations do you feel are most underserved. What can be done to help these regions?
I would like to ensure that we are present in the most rural areas in Bolivia, the Andean regions of Peru and Ecuador, the more remote parts of Brazil, and throughout central America. The need is very great in Latin America.

Who's YOUR hero?
My uncle Alberto Salamanca [same name] who was killed in the second war in Bolivia. He was the son of a President, and yet went to war. His bravery and sacrifice make him a hero.

What do you think is the best part about working with MMC?
We're contributing to health knowledge all over the world. We are always improving and going further and further in order to enhance this worldwide medical knowledge. We have access to specialists that give their time freely as a humanitarian cause, and help doctors in underserved nations provide diagnosis and treatment plans for the catastrophic diseases their patients are suffering from. Now, we're not only just about children's health, but medical education as a whole. This is a great project.

 

Related Links

Missions for Children (MMC): - Restoring Hope and Health Through Technology
Tech Awards: Technology Benefiting Humanity
- Medical Missions for Children was selected as an Agilent Technologies Foundation Health Award Laureate.
Charity Navigator Rating: - Medical Missions for Children was named a 4-star charity for the 2nd year in a row, an unprecedented feat.
Polycom Partners with Medical Missions For Children to Improve Pediatric Medical Care in Underserved Countries: - Video communications enables physicians to remotely diagnose and treat patients in underserved countries, enhancing ability of local hospitals to effectively

Extra Info

Mission Statement

To help the world’s critically ill children by:

* Providing medical diagnoses and treatment via telemedicine to children and mothers in underserved communities around the world
* Facilitating medical knowledge transfer from those who have it to those who need it
* Delivering health-related resources to underserved hospitals
* Supporting applied medical research utilizing our state-of-the-art communications infrastructure

Vision Statement

Medical Missions for Children strives to:

* Touch the lives of more than one million critically ill children each year by using state-of-the-art technology to transfer medical knowledge and support diagnostics
* Provide the vehicle for dissemination of medical breakthroughs to medically underserved communities both domestic and international
* Facilitate medical volunteerism in the United States
Provide a platform for "Medical Diplomacy," aimed at enhancing the image of the United States abroad.