Monthly Archives: September 2017

RealSelf Fellow Teaches Through Surgery in Vietnam

When Dr. Joseph Gruss set out on a recent humanitarian medical trip to Vietnam, he did so not expecting to spend much, if any, time in the operating room. The trip was designed to be a teaching trip, where he could connect with local surgeons and give lectures. The operating room turned out to be the perfect classroom.

“The problem is when you get to these countries, a lot of the local people don’t speak good English, so it’s really hard to teach all the time without translators,” Dr. Gruss said in an interview with RealSelf. “I found the best way to teach was in the operating room.”

And teach he did. A lot.

“Even though I was not supposed to do many surgeries … I eventually did five cases a day for five days,” Dr. Gruss said. “To do five major cases in a day is absolutely impossible in the U.S.”

Dr. Gruss explains a procedure in the operating room. Photo via ReSurge.

Most of the patients were children in need of facial reconstruction. The majority of the surgeries were to repair cleft lips or cleft palates. Dr. Gruss said it would take at least a month in the United States to perform as many surgeries as he did in five days. He credited the efficiency of the process in Vietnam. From the nurses and anesthesiologists who got patients set up quickly, to the lack of road blocks in the process that doctors often face in the United States.

“Myself and my resident were actually blown away by how efficient the operating rooms run there,” Dr. Gruss said.

Dr. Gruss noted that while the process is much quicker than it is in the United States, it isn’t because of a lack of safety. All of the appropriate safety measures are taken with each patient. Dr. Gruss said the level of care in Vietnam was fairly sophisticated compared to many countries. There just isn’t enough of it. He visited one of the few major hospitals. Many patients live long distances away and struggle to travel for the care they need.

Dr. Gruss made this trip with a group from ReSurge, who are working to expand and raise the level of care in countries like Vietnam. He did so with a sponsorship from RealSelf as one of the members of the initial class for the RealSelf Fellowship. RealSelf Fellows are awarded $7,500 to help fund nonprofit-sponsored humanitarian trips with the potential to further the RealSelf mission to bring confidence to people worldwide.

He is planning a return trip to Vietnam, and hoping to be able to see some of the patients he operated on.

Until then, he’s continuing to do what he initially set out to do; teach. He has maintained relationships with some of the doctors he met in Vietnam, and frequently answers their questions via email.

Learn more about the RealSelf Fellowship and how to apply here.

RealSelf’s Volunteering Day at the Treehouse Warehouse

RealSelf employees recently put their sorting, folding, packing, and tagging skills to the test during an afternoon volunteering in the Treehouse warehouse.

Treehouse’s mission is to bring equity for youth in foster care. That includes providing the kids with the academic support they need to graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers. The impact of the effort has been significant. Washington youth in foster care who aren’t in the Treehouse program have a 5-year high school graduation rate of 49%. The rate for those in the program jumps to 89% — above the Washington state average rate of 82%.

A huge part of the effort is an annual back-to-school drive that helps supply youth in the program with the supplies they need to feel confident in school.

That is where RealSelf came in.

In July, RealSelf employees participated in a back-to-school drive for Treehouse, donating clothing and school supplies.

We wanted to make an even bigger impact, so we partnered with Treehouse on a volunteer day in the warehouse. Treehouse receives thousands of donations ranging from new school supplies to used clothing, and everything in between. Each item has to be checked for quality, sorted, and processed before it hits the floor of the Treehouse store where the kids shop. Nearly a dozen RealSelf employees spent an afternoon doing just that.

“Working with Treehouse
was a great 
team experience,
and I can’t wait to go back!”

— Michael Peberdy

From separating pencils and pens to processing bags and bags of clothing, we did a little bit of everything. The majority of the day was spent in the Treehouse warehouse, but we also spent some time stocking the the store floor while several kids were busy shopping.

Treehouse received so many school supply donations we were running out of bins to store them all in. We were also put on duty of sorting more than 100 donated backpacks and dozens and dozens of new clothing items.

Everything donated to Treehouse gets put to use. If it’s not up to the standard of what the kids would receive, then it is donated to Goodwill in exchange for vouchers Treehouse uses to purchase additional inventory. Processing all of the items is a major effort, and volunteer teams are a big help.

This wasn’t the first time RealSelf partnered with Treehouse and that partnership will continue in the future with more clothing drives and volunteer opportunities.

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