Hand Surgeons Deliver Aid to India Ongoing Missionary Program Gives Residents Use of Their Hands

Share Article

For the past eight years, members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) from The Indiana Hand Center in Indianapolis, have been traveling to remote areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in southern India volunteering their time to perform hand surgery on local villagers and their children. Goodwill trips that started informally have now evolved into a unique and formally organized effort that residents of Tamil Nadu and surrounding provinces have come to rely upon.

For the past eight years, members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) from The Indiana Hand Center in Indianapolis, have been traveling to remote areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in southern India volunteering their time to perform hand surgery on local villagers and their children. Goodwill trips that started informally have now evolved into a unique and formally organized effort that residents of Tamil Nadu and surrounding provinces have come to rely upon.

Organized by Alexander D. Mih, MD, and working in conjunction with members of the mission at the South India Church of Christ Mission, ASSH members have performed more than 700 hand and upper extremity surgeries since the inception of the program. They have also participated in a teaching program with one of the medical schools in the area. This year marked Dr. Mih’s 16th time to make the trip.

The effort began in 1997 when a need was identified for a hand surgeon to visit one of the hospitals at this particular mission, which has been in operation since 1950. Supported by nearly 300 churches and individuals in the U.S., this mission was actually started and is operated by a husband and wife team from Indianapolis. "One of the orthopedic surgeons from Riley Hospital in Indianapolis had done some work there and said they could really use a hand surgeon. That was the beginning of this whole effort and how we became involved," says Dr. Mih.

Now, each year Dr. Mih, other surgeons and various members of their surgical team, regularly travel twice per year to India in conjunction with the mission to help the villagers – mainly the children – regain function of their hands, elbows, and shoulders. "This is very unique and has now become a well-organized effort. We have a track record there. What's different about this from other programs is that it’s regular, it's ongoing and the local residents look forward to our visits," Dr. Mih continues.

Culturally, the hands are very important in these Indian villages, and those who don’t have proper use of them are treated as outcasts and cannot get jobs. Eating is performed with the right hand while cleansing and hygiene are performed with the left. The effects of diseases such as leprosy and polio, severe burns, congenital birth defects, and other injuries leave many crippled, deformed and unable to perform even the most minor daily tasks with their hands. Access to good healthcare and health insurance as we know it in the U.S. are exceptions to the rule and all but nonexistent in these villages. Residents are very, very poor and there is still a very prominent caste system in place. This effort with the mission enables these people to have their surgery and be a functioning member of society.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print