Hackensack University Medical Center Team Members Reflect on an Essential and Meaningful Medical Mission

November 29, 2017

Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center-affiliated doctors and nurses partnered with the LIG Global Foundation and a team from Saint Barnabas Medical Center to embark on an essential and meaningful medical mission this past June in Dajabon, Dominican Republic.

Co-founded by Sarah Timmapuri, M.D., chief clinical information officer at Hackensack University Medical Center, and her husband, Ernani Sadural, M.D., director of Global Health at RWJ Barnabas Health, LIG Global is a 501(c) 3-designated non-profit providing charitable medical aid to communities in need.

At the request of the community, the collaborative team cared for more than 250 patients over nine days performing necessary, elective surgeries on 100 patients. Dozens of the surgeries were major procedures. If not for the presence of these volunteers, many of these surgeries would not have been possible.

“It was a transformative experience,” said Sanjeev Kaul, M.D., director of Trauma/Surgical Critical Care and Injury Prevention at Hackensack University Medical Center, a leader of the volunteers. “I was grateful for the opportunity to be of this kind of service.”

The volunteers traveled by using vacation time, and covering their own expenses. Volunteer physicians, Pranay Vaidya, M.D., chief of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory of the Heart & Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, and Dr. Timmapuri were unable to join this trip, but consulted via telehealth for pre-operative cardiac risk assessments including EKG and bedside, hand-held focused echocardiography.

“As much as we provided life-changing treatments for patients and families, they provided an eye-opening life-changing experience for our health care team,” said Evan Epper, RN, a clinical level III Endoscopy nurse at Hackensack University Medical Center, and a veteran volunteer. “We worked with only one IV pole and no basic equipment, like stethoscopes or blood pressure machines, unless the volunteers brought them. It was extremely hot with no air conditioning. Families of patients brought fans from home to help.”

In one of the critical cases, Dr. Kaul recalled, “We arrived with days to spare, caring for a patient who had a high fever, and helping to resolve a life-threatening problem.”

The team was also able to assist local physicians in advancing surgical procedures, performing the first prostatectomy at the facility (resection and removal of the prostate) on a patient who was incapacitated and unable to travel to Santo Domingo for treatment.

“It was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with other surgeons and share knowledge and best practices,” said Dr. Kaul.

Hackensack University Medical Center-affiliated volunteer team members also included Asha Bale, M.D., Maria Victoria Torres, RN, and Angie Rivera, medical assistant and billing manager.

“On behalf of LIG Global, we were proud to partner with this extraordinary team,” said Dr. Timmapuri. “They are ideal representatives of our mission to provide medical aid to communities in need and we are grateful for their service.”

The LIG Global Foundation involves its Youth Network under the leadership of high school students, Amina Sadural and Dillan Prasad, in collaboration with the University of Chicago’s GlobeMed chapter. A number of youth volunteers participated in this trip.

Dr. Kaul’s son, Avikar, a recurrent volunteer with the Youth Network, was instrumental in organizing charts, transporting patients, and providing personal support and company to patients before surgery if they were nervous. The Youth Network also volunteered at a local school in Dajabon for children with special needs.

“It was extraordinary to see how excited he was to help people,” said Dr. Kaul, who described his experience with his son as one that will stay with them forever. “It was gratifying to see how our team made a difference in the lives of these people – and to see how they touched our lives as well.”

About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 775-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of one of the largest networks in the state comprised of 28,000 team members and more than 6,000 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as the number one hospital in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 Best Hospital rankings – maintaining its place atop the NJ rankings since the rating system was introduced. It was also named one of the top four New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2017. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 23 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to The Northern Trust PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.org.