A University student organization raised $2,700 over the weekend to help fund their partnership with physicians in Ghana.
United 2 Heal, which fundraises to buy medical supplies for communities in developing countries, hosted its eighth annual benefit dinner Saturday evening in Rackham Auditorium. The event featured keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Crawford, an assistant professor of internal medicine.
Proceeds will go toward fostering what Kinesiology senior Nathan Palaparthi, United 2 Heal president, calls the group’s biggest project: a partnership with physicians in Ghana. The organization has sent shipments of supplies to underdeveloped areas in this region, and also works to sponsor students doing volunteer work.
Palaparthi said United 2 Heal’s overarching goal is to fight global health disparities by collecting excess medical supplies from hospitals around Michigan and sending them to places lacking these resources.
“Our mission is really twofold, in that first we’re trying to help individuals in other countries to obtain basic medical supplies and really equip resource-poor hospitals,” Palaparthi said. “But at the same time we’re doing so using medical supplies that are obtained from U.S. hospitals that would otherwise be disposed of.”
He added that United 2 Heal recently partnered with World Medical Relief — a Detroit-based organization that provides a variety of medical supplies for individuals lacking insurance, according to its website. United 2 Heal members and other students on campus visit WMR’s Detroit warehouse weekly to help sort its stock of medical supplies.
University alum Joey Perosky, one of United 2 Heal’s founders and a research lab specialist in the Medical School, discussed the organization’s transition to a partnership in Ghana from their original recipients in Tanzania.
Perosky said the Tanzanian hospital did not give clear feedback on how they were actually using the medical supplies they received, and added that he was motivated to help after traveling to Ghana, where he observed a striking lack of medical supplies.
“While conducting clinical observations in the labor delivery ward at one of the hospitals, the lack of resources was readily apparent, including adequately trained healthcare personnel, medical equipment and supplies,” he said.
Crawford, the keynote speaker at the event, related his work to United 2 Heal’s mission. He works on a project in collaboration with World Medical Relief called “My Heart Your Heart.” The project’s goal is to send pacemakers previously used by deceased patients to places where people could otherwise not afford them.
“I think what has united us is the recognition that there are health disparities in the world, that it’s our moral responsibility to try to attend to them and that we cannot remain silent,” he said.
He also spoke of the importance of working alongside funeral directors in the United States, as well as families of deceased, to discover if using the pacemakers is a feasible option. He said 84 percent of pacemakers are thrown away after the patient dies, when they could be reused by people who need them.
“Our goals are to assess the views of patients and funeral home directors, develop a validated reprocessing method, performing clinical trials testing safety and efficacy of used pacemakers and then scale up the efforts of pacemaker collection, evaluation and reprocessing as a nonprofit organization,” he said. “Finally, we want to share the knowledge so that anybody else who wants to do this can also undertake this mission.”
However, Crawford noted that Ghana’s Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital does not have a permanent cardiac catheterization lab or pacemaker implantation center, making it difficult for patients to receive the heart treatment they need.
“In Ghana there are 15 physicians per 100,000 people, but in the United States there are 240 physicians per 100,000,” he said. “The infant mortality rate in Ghana is 53.56 per 100,000 people while in the United States it is only 6.2 per 100,000.”
In his conclusion, Crawford commended the efforts of United 2 Heal, and stressed that work to mitigate international health care inequity is of the utmost importance.
“There are many elements that are needed for a successful program to address healthcare inequality,” he said. “We need great ideas, we need perseverance and collaboration with other organizations. We also need support of the community, and you are that community. You are here to support the young men and women of this organization who have tirelessly worked to provide their piece in a chain of goodwill, in order to deliver therapy to someone somewhere else.”