Ten cents a month was not much of a salary in 1972, but Ronald J. Garst, MD, a retired orthopaedic surgeon from Maryville, Tenn., wasn't looking to get rich at the time. Dr. Garst was a medical missionary on loan to the Bangladesh government; the token salary made it possible for Dr. Garst to utilize Bangladesh funds to build a much-needed hospital. He stayed full-time in Bangladesh for 10 years. In his latest trip with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) he was presented with honorary citizenship by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The only other American ever to receive such an honor is Mohammed Ali.
Dr. Garst had been a medical missionary in Ludhiana, India, for more than 20 years by the time Bangladesh won its independence in 1972. He founded the Rehabilitation Institute and Hospital for the Disabled (RIHD) in Bangladesh at a time when large numbers of war victims had little prospect of treatment. In 1972, there was only one other orthopaedic surgeon in the entire nation.
Within three months Dr. Garst had converted the outpatient department of a local hospital into an orthopaedic unit with hundreds of beds and an operating theatre. During the next 10 years, the RIHD grew to a 400-bed facility, and a 300-bed children's hospital was also built.
Dr. Garst saw not only the need for treating patients, but also the need to train orthopaedic surgeons. "My main goal was training," he says, "it always has been." As a result of the RIHD training program, Bangladesh now has more than 200 orthopaedic surgeons.
For more information about HVO and Orthopaedics Overseas programs call (202) 296-0928.