Today's News

Thursday, March 16, 2000

Drs. Epps, Harrison earn Humanitarian Award

No matter how busy they are with patients, emergencies, insurers, paper work, regulations and more, many orthopaedic surgeons devote their time, skills and compassion for volunteer humanitarian efforts.

Often expressed as a way of "giving back something to the profession and the community," orthopaedic surgeons share their skills with other physicians in far away countries, treat the poor in clinics, mentor minorities and are engaged in other humanitarian activities.

This year, AAOS honored two members with the first annual AAOS Humanitarian awards. During Opening Ceremonies, Charles H. Epps Jr., MD, was honored for his efforts in the United States and S. Scott Harrison, MD, for his work abroad.

Dr. Epps, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Howard University, Washington, D.C., has trained more than 4,000 African American and minority medical students and 70 orthopaedic residents since 1961. He was the Dean of Howard University's College of Medicine for six years and program director of the minority residency program for 24 years. Dr. Epps has continued to serve as a role model, mentor and advisor for minority men and women orthopaedic surgeons, regardless of where they have trained.

"With Howard University as my academic home throughout my career, there were many opportunities to mentor young minority men and women who wanted careers in medicine and orthopaedic surgery," Dr. Epps said. "Having had to overcome obstacles myself, it prepared me to be in a position to help others."

At D.C. General Hospital, Dr. Epps provided orthopaedic care to thousands of children with complex orthopaedic problems. There, he established and served as chief of the country's only free, regional, multidisciplinary crippled children's program for limb-deficient children. For 38 years he provided counseling and treatment for about 1,000 children with congenital and acquired amputations.

Dr. Epps' private practice, located in inner city Wash-ington, D.C., has included many patients who had lim-ited funds to pay for services. Howard University Hospital, his primary site of practice and training, is a major provider of uncompensated care in Washington, D.C.

"It has been rewarding to observe and assist many patients from the Handicapped and Crippled Chil-drens' Program seek higher education and become independent, employed citizens," Dr Epps says, "and many of them have chosen health care careers."

As an advocate for services for the disabled, he became a founding director of the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Epps has been a member of the national board of directors for the World Rehabilitation Fund, Inc., since 1998. The group provides prosthetic and orthotic devices to patients in developing countries. Many of the patients are victims of land mines and other atrocities of war.

C. Scott Harrison, MD, Harrisburg, Pa., began his Third World orthopaedic work in 1966, working at a leprosarium while stationed in Vietnam. Later, he worked with Orthopaedics Overseas in Malawi and in the Transkei in Africa. After visiting and per-forming short-term humanitarian work in Africa for more than a dozen years, Dr. Harrison began the Crippled Children's United Rehabilita-tion Effort (CCURE) in 1996. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to bringing First World level rehabilitative care (circa 1985) to the disabled children of the Third World.

With funds primarily supplied by Dr. Harrison and his wife, CCURE's first hospital opened in Kijabe, outside of Nairobi, in May of 1998. Bethany's Crippled Children's Centre of Kenya-a 32-bed hospital-achieved full occupancy shortly after opening. To date, comprehensive rehabilitative care has been provided to more than 7,000 children with more than 2,000 surgical procedures performed. Physical therapy and bracing, as indicated, have augmented the surgical care.

A network of 22 rural healthcare clinics has been established to service all but the coastal area of Kenya, so that an estimated 750,000 children with disabilities now have access to care regardless of ability to pay.

In partnership with a German mission organization, CCURE is completing the con-struction of a 60-bed facility in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The first phase of construction of a third hospital in Mbale, Uganda, has been completed. Although the 40-bed hospital will not be complete until this fall, care is already being provided there.

"Fully as important is that we have been able the recruit nationals in each country to work in the hospitals, " Dr. Harrison says.

CCURE also plans to de-velop hospitals in Vietnam, Malawi and the Republic of Congo. CCURE has spent more than $2.5 million for the care of disabled children in the Third World.

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