“Valley Doctor Helps the Poor in Nicaragua”
by Russ Wiles – Feb. 17, 2012 03:20 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Dr. James Foltz, a gynecologist at Paradise Valley Hospital, recently put his medical practice on hold for a week and paid his own way to Nicaragua so that he could perform surgeries on indigent women.
A relaxing vacation? Maybe not, but Foltz has participated in five surgical missions, and he’s ready to do it again.
“The week flew by, and we were sad to leave,” said Foltz, who was accompanied by anesthesiologist Dr. Carlos Rodriguez and nurse Sandy Sargent. “As a physician, it allows you to go back to doing medicine as you thought you’d be doing it.”
Courtesy of Dr. James Foltz
Valley gynecologist Dr. James Foltz (left) sits with anesthesiologist Dr. Carlos Rodriguez and nurse Sandy Sargent.
Foltz, who’s also an obstetrician, gives a lot of the credit to Esperanca, a Phoenix-based non-profit that funds surgical missions in Latin America, builds water-treatment and sanitation systems in the region and provides health-education programs to low-income groups on both sides of the border.
Esperanca coordinated Foltz’s mission, located a hospital and had pre-screened patients waiting when the Arizona surgical team arrived. It also provided interpreters and other support staff and followed up with patients after the Americans returned home.
“I’ve never seen an organization make better use of its resources than this one,” he said.
The organization was founded 42 years ago by James Tupper, a doctor and Catholic priest later known as Father Luke who was providing medical care in Brazil’s Amazon region, said Tom Egan, Esperanca’s chief executive officer.The group’s name means “hope” in Portuguese. Esperanca was founded in Phoenix because that’s where Tupper’s brother Jerry, an attorney who incorporated the non-profit, was living.
Since then, the group has focused on Bolivia and Nicaragua. “They’re the second- and third-poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere,” Egan said. But compared with the poorest nation, Haiti, those two countries don’t receive nearly as much U.S. aid.
“Nicaragua and Bolivia also are safe and stable enough that you can send volunteers,” he said.
Esperanca, which counts eight paid employees in Phoenix and hundreds of volunteers, is a medium-size non-profit, generating $2.7 million in revenues over its most recent fiscal year. The group spent about 83 percent of expenses on program services, with most of the rest on salaries and benefits, according to its Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Program costs include hiring staff in the recipient nations who coordinate the medical missions. Esperanca plans to coordinate 15 missions this year. Its surgical teams, from across the U.S., address deformities, burns, gynecological problems, eye issues such as cataracts and more.
Foltz said he and his team brought their own surgical instruments, and the mission was aided by donations of materials and pharmaceuticals from Paradise Valley Hospital. He and his team did 42 consultations and performed 32 surgeries during the week they were in Jinotega, a mountain town.
The surgeries were mostly done to treat urinary incontinence or remove tumors, with one procedure to remove an early stage cervical-cancer growth. They removed a 5-pound tumor from one patient.
Esperanca conducted 15 surgical missions during its most recent fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That encompassed 832 surgeries valued at $2.43 million in donated medical services, plus $1.39 million in donated equipment and supplies. Egan calls Esperanca one of the most efficient charities of its type and points out the group received a top four-star rating from watchdog Charity Navigator, plus a Seal of Excellence from Independent Charities of America.
Ironically, the group’s surgical reach is constrained less by the willingness of medical specialists to volunteer than by the cost of hiring staff to coordinate the details in the recipient nations. In fact, Egan said Esperanca has to turn away some doctors and other medical professionals.
“None of these people went into the medical field to deal with managed care and insurance paperwork — rather, they want to help people,” Egan said.
What: Phoenix-based non-profit dedicated to improving health in low-income nations.
Financial highlights: Generated $2.7 million of revenue, entirely from private sources, over its fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Spent roughly 83 percent of total expenses on program services, with the rest on salaries and benefits.