May 27, 2005

Med students find supply ‘Remedy’

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Renee Makowski, left, and Kimberly Ma, second-year students at VUSM, are part of Remedy, a program that collects unused medical supplies which are distributed to poor and under-developed nations.
photo by Dana Johnson

Med students find supply ‘Remedy’

One medical student group is providing medical help overseas without even leaving Nashville. Through the REMEDY program, students are collecting leftover materials from the operating rooms — supplies that have not been used, but are no longer considered sterile — and sending them to under-developed countries. The program matches excess resources with those in desperate need.

Medical students Ashleigh Hegedus, Himali Wijessoriya, Kimberly Ma and Renee Makowski, with the help of an Alpha Omega Alpha service grant and direction from Jeanette Norden, Ph.D., professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Neuroscience, have put a collection bin in place and have already made their first delivery, sending a 25-pound package to Sri Lanka.

“We were inspired by one of last year's World Health Week speakers, Dr. Khassan Baiev, a Chechen surgeon,” Hegedus said. Baiev spoke about practicing medicine in the midst of the Chechian/Russian war and working with diminishing supplies — substituting ordinary household thread for suture thread, a hand saw for a surgical saw and using an ordinary drill for brain operations. Baiev said that it pained him to walk through American hospitals and see unused supplies being thrown in the trash.

“A group of us got together to figure out how we could help,” Hegedus said.

The remedy was REMEDY, a program piloted at Yale University, which allows the unused materials to be put to good use. While the supplies are not sterile they are more hygienic than many of the alternatives physicians have in under developed countries, and are eagerly accepted.

Currently, the REMEDY program has a bin located in the core room of the surgical suites, where they are collecting non-sharps such as gowns, drapes, gloves, sutures, medical equipment and tubing.

“There are many materials that are opened and prepped in the operating room, but either go unused or are mishandled,” Hegedus said. “So far we filled four 32-gallon bins in just a month.”

The supplies are being sorted and stored and will be sent to those areas of the world with the greatest need. The group hopes to expand the operation, placing more bins around the Medical Center, and make this a continuing program at Vanderbilt.

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