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Evanston neurosurgeon Roberta Glick M.D., may have many reasons for smiling brightly when she hears the word “Bolivia.” Working there on short mission trips not only fulfills her passion for both medicine and travel, she says, it touches a deeper human element. And this is what keeps her engaged with Solidarity Bridge, a local non-profit providing teaching and equipment/supplies to medical communities in South America.
Founded in 1999 by Evanston resident Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa, Ph.D., Solidarity Bridge has been creating channels of good will between U.S. physicians, medical suppliers, financial supporters and Bolivian medical professionals who are trying to better serve their fellow citizens living in deep poverty. In 2011, this work extended to Paraguay.
Information at solidaritybridge.org. states that in 2012 the organization performed 343 surgeries, provided care to 1,346 patients and donated $3.1 million in medical supplies and services.
Dr. Glick, who with her family hosted the doctors, said, “One of the reasons I went into medicine was so that I could travel around the world and use my skills. It is fun and exciting to experience the world this way. But there is a Jewish concept that is also part of my daily existence, ‘Tikun Olam’ – the repair of the broken world, to try to make it whole. It is our duty in the world to try to make it a better place, whether by the children we bring into the world, the art, poetry, literature, music we produce, the improvement of a social condition, and our work.
“And this is one reason why I work with Solidarity Bridge, a Catholic faith-based medical mission group. The doctors and volunteers with this group are infused with a particular sense of purpose, not just that it is the right thing to do, but that our actions may have a deeper meaning.
“The name of the group describes what we do. We bring much needed medical equipment, technical skills and educational material, and work with the doctors and medical personnel there. We have performed highly technical and innovative procedures with microscopes, drills, microsurgical tools and endoscopic equipment, and train the doctors so that they can continue the work with the equipment we leave for them. We also have given lectures and seminars to update the doctors in areas they have requested. And I can say that the doctors and nurses in Bolivia are doing an amazing job with the limited resources they have; I have learned the importance of on the spot improvisation.”
Recently this bridge Dr Glick describes was reversed when two Bolivian neurosurgeons, Dr. Karin Aponte and Dr. Juan Antonio Moreno came to Evanston as part of a five week “solidarity visit” to the USA. They connected with Evanston Hospital’s Federation for International Education in Neurological Surgery (FIENS) and worked alongside world class neurosurgeons in other Chicagoland hospitals including Lurie Children’s Hospital, Central Dupage Hospital, Stroger Cook County Hospital, and Mt. Sinai Hospital. They eventually moved onto Boston where they worked with Solidarity Bridge board member, Dr. Richard Moser at University of Massechusettes Medical Center. And to round out their experience, they attended the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) conference in New Orleans.
What did this visit mean to these visiting physicians? “After working for eight years in Bolivia with Solidarity Bridge, Dr. Aponte and I were proud to be on this mission to the United States. We’re committed to learning the most from our friends here regarding hospital organization, technical skills and knowledge. This is really special because it gives us the chance to change lives, expecting nothing in return but the goal of a mission accomplished. I truly believe that throughout the world there are many pure hearts waiting to be called—people who will give their own life for others—and the best example of this is Solidarity Bridge. It’s very important to take this opportunity to thank the people of Solidarity Bridge, who made this trip possible, and we expect to increase our participation in the future. Gracias!”
Dr. Hinojosa was at the center of planning this solidarity visit and sees it this way. “In the making for many years, this solidarity visit is the completion of a circle. We’ve reached out to the Bolivian medical community and they have reciprocated by coming to us. The new educational opportunities opened by connections made in this visit could further transform the future of neurosurgery in Bolivia.”
Another delegation of Bolivian physicians, two neurologists specializing in epilepsy, will arrive into Evanston in July and work primarily at Rush Medical Center for four weeks. Anyone wishing to learn more about how to volunteer, donate supplies or provide financial support Solidarity Bridge may call 847-328-7748 or visit www.solidaritybridge.org.