He may work in an upscale office on Roxbury Drive, but he gives his heart and soul to those who are in need, while he gets his well-manicured hands dirty from the trenches.
Surgical Friends was created in late 2009 by Dr. Kami Parsa, Dr. Jay Calvert and Dr. Andrew Ordon. After volunteering for 10 years on missions with other organizations, Parsa, an oculoplastic and orbital reconstructive surgeon with Roxbury Surgical Associates, thought the time had come. With two international trips under their belt — Cambodia in January; Haiti in July, his group plans to return to Haiti in February.
“If I could do this for a living I would drop everything and do it,” Parsa said. “I don’t think there is any monetary compensation that can replace the feeling that you get when somebody says thank you, that you never expected.
“There’s a huge need. There are lots of places that we can go, but since we have a good relationship with Hope Hospital in Port-au-Prince, we will return.”
The first time out, they saw about 40 patients and operated on six.
“We did not have the facility to do it all. Our next mission, we’re going to take all the instruments we need,” Parsa said. “The hospital wasn’t really built; it was under construction. We worked in a procedure room.”
He keeps up with his long-distance patients with hospital reports.
“[Americans] are so spoiled,“ he said. “Here, when you enter an operating room, you have everything you need for surgery. In Haiti, one of the anesthesia machines wasn’t working. We were limited with types of anesthesia, instruments and medications. But we took as much as we could from home because of donations for supplies.”
Parsa recognizes that the rest of the world has “forgotten” about Haiti, assuming “everything is fine.”
“It’s not; it’s a mess,” he said. “People are still living in tents; the level of poverty is unimaginable. We stayed at a hotel that was partially open, as part of it was damaged. “
Orden, a host on the Emmy Award-winning television show The Doctors, accompanied him. Part of their visit will air on the show.
“The people are all very grateful. This is the part of my field that I love” Parsa said.
Surgical Friends visited Cambodia for ten days, where they operated on 25 children.
“It was beautiful. In Cambodia, we taught two doctors how to do the Ptosis procedure (droopy eyelid),” Parsa said. “If it’s not treated, patients go blind. Since then, doctors have operated on an additional 50 kids. That’s how to pay this forward – to teach the local doctors.”
Parsa also does pro-bono work locally.
“We’re operating on a woman, born in Orange County, with congenital facial paralysis,” he said. “She lost her health insurance three years ago when she lost her job.”
For more information, visit www.surgicalfriends.org.
Sue Facter writes about all things A-list. Her work has appeared in USA Today, People, Los Angeles Times and TV Guide.