American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Mission to Heal

Dr. GeelhoedGuest: Glenn Geelhoed, MD, FACS; founder of Mission to Heal, a nonprofit global medical missions agency; professor of surgery, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.

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The need for surgical care around the world has continued to rise over the last decade, and socioeconomic disparities persist in the United States as well. But with advances in transportation and increased use of social media, more surgeons and surgical trainees are volunteering to bring surgical care to those who need it.

In this episode of The Recovery Room, host Dr. Rick Greene speaks with Glenn Geelhoed, MD, FACS, a professor of surgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, and the founder of Mission to Heal, a nonprofit global medical missions agency. Dr. Geelhoed was the recipient of the 2009 ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Award for international outreach.

Dr. Geelhoed said his interest in volunteerism began when he was a student. As he looked through the pages of National Geographic, he became curious about what people’s lives were like on the other side of the world. He eventually learned how much the people in underserved areas had to teach him.

“What they know is how to take on larger problems in greater numbers with far fewer resources,” Dr. Geelhoed said. “That’s a skill we need to learn from them.”

During these medical missions that he has taken for more than 40 years, Dr. Geelhoed said his aim is not to implement his own solutions to other people’s problems and then leave. Instead, he hopes to learn about—­­­and build upon—the skills that they already have.

“What we are obligated to do is to enhance those indigenous skills to make them more capable of caring for themselves,” Dr. Geelhoed said.


Dr. Geelhoed is the founder of Mission to Heal, a nonprofit medical missions agency, and a professor of surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. He received his medical training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.