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Volunteers lend a helping hand at Orthopaedics Outreach Day

Jul 14, 2023Jul 14, 2023

by Danny Bonvissuto

The seventh-annual Vanderbilt Orthopaedics Outreach Day, held Saturday, Aug. 19, is the surgical version of a pop-up event. Approximately 60 VUMC volunteers, including surgeons, pre- and post-op nurses and check-in, anesthesia, sterile, supply and cleaning staff, took over the Vanderbilt Surgery Center in Franklin to provide free surgical treatment to uninsured or underinsured Middle Tennesseans.

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand launched domestic outreach days in 2016 as part of their Touching Hands initiative. In 2017, Vanderbilt was the second site in the country to host the event and has kept it going the longest for two reasons: It helps people and helping people feels good.

“The patients are very grateful for the care they receive, but sometimes I think the volunteers get more out of it than the patients. They know they’re there to help people, which is why they got into medicine in the first place,” said Donald Lee, MD, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Vanderbilt Orthopaedics Outreach Day founding director. “There’s a different energy to it than a regular surgery day, and we try to make it a special team-building event for the volunteers.”

Including the 14 surgeries performed at the seventh-annual event, 90 Middle Tennesseans have received hand or sports surgeries they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

“This is a fantastic program that has helped many of our middle Tennessee patients, and it is all due to Dr. Lee’s vision in 2017,” said Rick Wright, MD, Dan Spengler MD Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “He has made a real difference in people’s lives.”

Some patients originate at Shade Tree, VUMC’s student-run free clinic, and others are referred from other local community clinics for uninsured patients. Lee and Eric Bowman, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Sports Medicine, perform evaluations in their clinics. This is the second year Sports Medicine has participated in Vanderbilt Orthopaedics Outreach Day, and there are plans for joint surgeries in the future.

“The hand cases are what we call subacute problems: painful conditions like carpal tunnel, trigger fingers and ganglion cysts that wouldn’t typically be resolved in the ER,” Lee said. “ These patients often fall through the cracks because they don’t have regular insurance and can’t afford the surgical costs. A lot of them are working but don’t make enough money to get regular insurance.”

Sports surgeries include knee and shoulder arthroscopies.

“Though it was initially done in collaboration with the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, all of our Vanderbilt Orthopaedics Outreach Days have been funded by VUMC,” Lee said. “I’m very grateful that they allow us to continue on with this program, and also to Shade Tree for allowing us to see their patients.”

Participating surgeons this year included Lee and Bowman; Douglas Weikert, MD, and Mihir Desai, MD, MS. Participating fellow and resident surgeons included Blaire Burton, MD; Eden Epner, MD; Andrew Lee, MD; Jordan Newby, MD; Ryan Seltzer, MD; Thomas Spears, MD; and Colby Wollenman, MD.

Anesthesia services were provided by attending anesthesiologists Jeffrey Clemmons, MD and Lindsey Efird, MD; resident anesthesiologist Jenny Kim, MD; and certified registered nurse anesthetists Michelle Edwards, CRNA, Erin Leatherwood, CRNA; Mary Kelley, CRNA; Gwendolyn Sanders, CRNA; and Brian Whitson, CRNA.

The surgery center staff were led by OR charge nurse Christopher Fritts, RN, CNOR and perioperative services manager Jennifer Neissen, RN, MSN, CNOR. Spanish interpretation was provided by Fidel Moreno, MD. Patient referrals were coordinated by Kaitlyn Reasoner, MD.

Partnering organizations and businesses included Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association, Costco, Target, Chick-fil-A, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Daily Dish Catering, Hattie B’s, Starbucks, Martin’s Bar-B-Que, Loveless Café, KimKaps and 4imprint.