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Editor's Page: Healing Hands
Good deeds can spread across the country one community at a time.
Daniel Cook
Publish Date: April 8, 2021   |  Tags:   Editors Page

Last December, I was part of a committee at AORN that organized a food drive to benefit low-income families in Southwest Denver. We partnered with the principal of a local middle school, who recorded a pandemic-friendly virtual message about the kids and the families we'd be helping. In just two weeks, thanks to the overwhelming response and generosity of the AORN staff, 150 families received meals they could enjoy around the holidays during the most difficult of years. The principal sent us pictures of smiling kids and their parents as the food was being delivered.

The impact of the food drive was immediate and tangible. People gave, families ate. We saw who we helped and couldn't help but feel a connection. It was energizing. Most importantly, we identified and addressed a specific need in the community.

That experience is part of the reason I'm so inspired by Dr. Demetrio Aguila, the surgeon on the cover whose M25 Program gives patients the option to pay for surgeries by donating hours of community service. It's an innovative concept that increases access to surgical care for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

But the M25 Program isn't a charity. Patients who pay for their procedures through service hours can ask volunteers to help them foot the bill. They're invested in their outcomes, and so are the people who donate their time and energy to the cause.

Jeffrey Jenson is the first patient to receive care through the program. He was experiencing numbness in his lower leg and needed to undergo nerve surgery to correct the issue. Dr. Aguila offered to perform the procedure in exchange for 560 hours of community service.

Kristi Brummels, learning resource center assistant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, happened across a video about Mr. Jenson posted on the M25 Program's Facebook page. She sent him a message, letting him know she'd organize a group of UNMC nursing students to help him earn his surgery. He was overwhelmed and humbled that someone he'd never met was willing to reach out.

Ms. Brummels gathered 33 second-year nursing students to help sort clothing donations at a local charity. After Mr. Jenson spoke to the students about his medical journey and the hardships he faced, they got to work and fulfilled 180 hours of his service obligation.

"Instead of simply sorting clothes, we had a purpose," says Ms. Brummels. "We knew exactly who we were helping, so the students learned about empathy and the impact they can make on patients and their communities. That made the experience very meaningful and extremely rewarding."

The M25 Program is ultimately about people coming together to help others. "When that happens, communities thrive," says Mr. Jenson, who eventually had his life-changing surgery.

Above all else, Dr. Aguila wants to rekindle a sense of volunteerism in local communities. He believes the patients who receive the care they need through the support of their neighbors will be inspired to help someone else in need. By paying it forward, they invest in hope for a better future.

This organic compassion is at the core of Dr. Aguila's mission to heal patients and lift communities across the country. "To truly make a difference, you must disrupt the status quo," says Dr. Aguila.

Think of others as you consider your own role in providing affordable surgical care for all patients. It's often the smallest acts of kindness that have the biggest impact. You have the ability to inspire a major movement from your very own facility. OSM

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