Healthy Hearts in Managua, Nicaragua – A conversation with Surgeons of Hope (SoH)

In this blog we continue our portrayal of organizations caring for and accompanying patients with heart disease in South America. Our conversation today is with Surgeon’s of Hope (SoH) Executive Director, Charles-Edouard CATHERINE (ChE) discussing their work in Managua, Nicaragua.  SoH have been a supporter of GHN’s vision and mission since the beginning thanks to SoH Board President Eduardo da Cruz, MD and we are immensely grateful for Dr da Cruz initial counsel as we all work to expand access to life-saving heart care around the world.

Charles-Edouard CATHERINE, Executive Director, Surgeons Of Hope
Charles-Edouard CATHERINE, Executive Director, Surgeons Of Hope

GHN:  Introduce us to Surgeons of Hope (SoH)

ChE : Surgeons of Hope strives to provide every infant and child with a damaged heart with an equal opportunity to receive life-saving surgery. Our head quarter is in Manhattan.

We have executed our model in Managua, Nicaragua, the first instance of our program in Latin America.  Our aim is to provide access to cardiac care to vulnerable infants and children in the poorest countries of the western hemisphere.  Our approach has a triple focus:

1. CURING:  We organize and send volunteer surgical teams from U.S. and European teaching hospitals to the poorest regions where our program will do the most good.  Each team includes 12-15 specialists needed to perform open-heart surgery on infants and children.  In one week, a team can perform ten surgeries to cure both congenital and acquired heart problems. 2. TRAINING:  Because teams are assembled from leading teaching hospitals and the medical professionals are also professors, they engage in intensive training of the target country’s local medical team, at first in demonstration, and eventually in collaboration, once the local team’s skills reach that standard.  This progression can occur after 15 to 20 such surgical missions.  Surgeons of Hope equips, supplies, and provides for the logistics of each team’s surgical mission.3. BUILDING:  As the local medical team’s surgical skills rise to the standard, Surgeons of Hope constructs a new, modern pediatric heart center in that country, equipping and supplying the new center with the latest in technology to ensure sustainability of the progress.

We are about to start a new program in Costa Rica and in Peru.

For more information please view a video made for SoH

GHN: How long have you been going for and what was the reason or inspiration for your NGO starting?

ChE: Surgeons of Hope was founded in 2001, the idea was to reproduce the resounding success of the Chaine de l’Espoir in France.

Maria Jose with patient Martha Alicia Vargas
Maria Jose with patient Martha Alicia Vargas
Patient Andro Pompero
Patient Andro Pompero
Surgery in Progress
Surgery in Progress

GHN: What do you feel are the biggest barriers to increasing access to cardiac care in your area?

ChE: Mainly cultural traits (lack of pro-activity and lack of interest to “own and be accountable for the cardiac program”)

GHN: What is the single biggest need your organization has in achieving its goals and mission?

ChE: As most small NGOs, our main issue is to have a steady and predictable stream of donations.

GHN: What is your organization doing to make global access to cardiac care sustainable?

ChE: Our first priority to achieve sustainability is to develop a great collaboration with local authorities, to gain the trust of our local partners and of the Government.

GHN: Describe any collaborations your organization has had with other organizations or stake holders working in similar fields to your own? Has there been any limitations to your communication?

ChE: We mainly work with:

Chaine de l’Espoir France, Chaine de l’Espoir Belgium, Heart Trust, Let It Beat, Hearts with Hope; multiple cardiovascular programs in the USA and in Europe

We organize missions together, share expertise and best practices.

We don’t really experiment any limitations with communication bridges. However, we do when we are looking for new partners.

GHN: How do you envision a collaborative technology platform (like GHN) that aim to improve communication and collaboration amongst stakeholders being able to help you achieve your goals in your respective field?

ChE: We provide strategic mentoring, benchmarking tools and optimization of resources (human, technical, equipment, etc.)

GHN: Do you have any specific stakeholders you would like to reach out to via the GHN Platform or this interview?  

ChE: We always welcome the opportunity to build new collaborations, especially with NGOs that work in Latin America.

Charles-Edouard was at the Global Forum in Geneva in June 2015 presenting SoH’s work to our audience.  Please contact Charles-Edouard directly for any further information about their programs in South America or connect with GHN for introductions.

Finally you may be curious to learn about Charles-Edouard’s personal and brave journey as he works relentlessly for access to care for children in Nicaragua.

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