Since January 2006, teams of various Summit County medical professionals have been visiting Rwanda to improve orthopedic health, and this year is no different.
The Summit Medical Center Health Foundation has dedicated its international mission to bettering the lives and futures of Rwandan individuals.
"This is a long-term commitment we've made," said Greg Hodgson, director for Centura Global Health Initiatives.
Centura Global Health Initiatives provides medical mission trips for volunteer doctors, medical professionals and non-medical volunteers. The group provides no-cost surgical, medical and community health programs, education, training and relief in areas where health care is often limited or difficult to obtain.
Other non-clinical projects are a vital part of the trip; this year's project is to build a gazebo at the 104-bed Mugonero Hospital, the hospital partner the foundation has kept for three years.
Vail Summit Orthopaedics surgeon Peter Janes is taking a new approach to education on this year's trip. Janes is conducting workshops to train local health care providers on how to correct club foot in newborns.
"There is a lot of neglected club foot ... teenagers end up walking on their ankles," Janes said.
Like many of the injuries he treats in Rwanda, club foot cases are not treated early enough, making it harder to correct, if at all, later in life.
In addition to club foot correction workshops, Janes is part of the medical team that performs surgeries for "a great deal of infection" and neglected trauma at the Mugonero Hospital.
Typically, Janes, who has made the trip for the past three years, will perform 15-20 surgeries in one week at the hospital.
The gazebo project is still in the works, but will provide a place for patients and their family members to get outside and still be out of the way of rain, sun and heat. Because of minimal staff, each patient has a family member there to take care of basic nursing needs. A family member is needed to prepare and cook meals, feed patients, dress them and change their sheets.
Mugonero does not provide all medical expenses and materials; instead, they are paid for by donations through the Summit Medical Center Health Foundation. The foundation is currently accepting donations in a designated Rwanda fund.
The Rwanda fund is split in two parts: medical and gazebo. The medical expenses fund can accept donations up until the trip and after for future trips, but the gazebo fund has a June 1 deadline.
Currently, the gazebo is about halfway to the $12,500 goal.
The non-clinical team needs the full amount to purchase building materials and coordinate with Rwandan builders before and during the trip, according to Deb Edwards, Summit Medical Center Health Foundation president who is heading the gazebo project.
To help reach its goal, Edwards said the gazebo fund will continue to collect donations up until the trip in late July.
"We are committed to make this happen," she said of the gazebo, because of its importance to hospital patients and families.
Before the medical teams began making trips to Rwanda and after the major genocide in the 1990s, the African country had no surgeons, according to Hodgson. He said most surgeons fled or were killed during the genocide.
The teams decided to focus on orthopedic surgeries because in Rwanda "10 million people are relying on their limbs" for not only everyday life, but for income.
Making an effort to help is a big deal for Janes, who has made the trip three times. "It's a humbling experience ... it's good to keep my judgment in check," he said.
To make donations:
Go to www.summitmedicalcenter.org and specify "Rwanda International Mission"
Mail: 340 Peak One Drive
PO Box 738
Frisco, CO 80443