Dr. John Downey (2/20/19)

Dr. John Downey from the San Francisco area has been a Fellow of ICS since he joined the US Section in 2011. He was part of a project in which the US Section participated after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. During that project he joined ICSUS President Jay Bachicha and several other members of the US Section. Since witnessing the devastation in Haiti and the impact a humanitarian medical mission can have on the local population, he has actively participated in humanitarian missions and also regularly attended the ICSUS annual meeting. Most recently Dr. Downey participated in an ICSUS supported project to the Philippines (Jan. 24 to Feb. 3). Following is his follow up message to colleagues who shared in the experience of helping those in need. Congratulations to Dr. Downey and everyone from the World Surgical Foundation for successfully organizing another marvelous mission.
It has been one week since I returned from the Philippines and I have been telling our story to all my family, friends, and colleagues at work. What an amazing and successful mission it was! When I tell others how much work our group accomplished, I think some of them think I am exaggerating. The number of surgeries done in one week is astounding and exemplary for a one-week mission. My previous mission in 2014 was also very successful, but the number of surgeries this time more than doubles what we did then, truly amazing!

What a special group of people you all are! Diverse in age from the early 20's to the 80's, diverse in experience and education, many with previous mission experience, some with extensive mission experience, some on their first, most having a medical background but some with none. Our diverse group came together into a cohesive, efficient, hard-working unit that exemplified great teamwork and great attitude. Along with being focused and productive the group was congenial, caring, supportive of each other, and fun. We overcame travel fatigue, jet lag, some illnesses, and some technical challenges. We bonded over great food and drinks, good conversations, music, beautiful tropical scenery and laughs. Several of the experienced mission members commented that this was the most fun mission in which they had ever participated, I have to agree with that!

I want to personally thank all of you for your part in making this mission great. First, and most of all I want to thank our WSF founders, organizers, sponsors, and dedicated long-time volunteers. Your dedication, vision, and commitment over the last 20+ years have created a system that allows busy volunteer professionals like me to join and feel great because the expense and donation of time is respected and well-utilized. The Alvears are a family to be emulated, who truly walk the walk of compassion, caring, humanitarianism, and charity. Dr. Dom Alvear is and has been a very dynamic leader and an inspiring figure to me and others as well. Some of the participants described him as their hero, and how proud they were to be associated with him professionally over the years. Dr. Vennie Alvear is also a hero of a quieter sort, however no less important and key to the WSF's great success. Dom Jr. and other consistent and long standing volunteer participants have also been integral in creating the WSF of today, which is already quite a legacy of the Alvears and all who support and work with them to make the missions happen.

Second, the WSF Philippines group deserves special thanks for their dedication and diligence, their welcoming friendly treatment of us, and the ground work that was done that allowed this mission to launch and become so successful. Since 2014 the organization in the Philippines has been transformed into a very busy and well-organized mission "machine." Probably only Dr. Dom could describe Dr. Lester Suntay as a puppy, more like an Alpha wolf leading a pack that is "hungry" to help others and make good happen for people who are battling poverty and despair every day, if I must stick to an animal analogy. The Philippines team is egalitarian, professional, coordinated and efficient. It is a great pleasure to know and work alongside with all of you. Henry De Rosa was a great anesthesia team leader who helped me tremendously and treated me so kindly, thank you for your acceptance, help and cheerful attitude. Erven Manzano is a great and diligent organizer who patiently helped me with my travel plans and helped us all be in the right place at the right time. The farewell dinner at your lovely home on Sibuyan island will set the bar very high for any farewell dinners in the years to come. I nominate you for "party meister" from now on, I like the way you do things! Thanks to the entire WSF Philippines team. You all hit the ground running, your seriousness about the mission and dedication to the mission show and serve as an example to all of us who wish to help others about how well it can be done.

Much gratitude is due to our fabulous hosts from the Romblon Provincial Government and Odiongan city, especially Governor Eduardo Firmalo and Mayor Trina Firmalo-Fabic: but also the entire crew of security, transportation, and other government workers who worked so hard to smooth our path and to make us all feel so welcome and appreciated. I will always remember fondly the hospitality we received and your warmth. You are amazing hosts, all of you!

Thanks also to the generous sponsors of this mission and of the WSF as well as the WSF Philippines. Your generous support is greatly appreciated, not only by the participants who benefit from your subsidization of our lodging, meals, and transportation, but by all the patients we helped, every one of them. The light of your good-hearted generosity shines and brightens the world for them and all of us.

Thanks to every member of the Romblon mission team for your kind hearts and your willingness to step out of your mostly comfortable lives, to make the trip to where the people are who need the help and to do this work. Thanks to all of you for accepting me in the team and collectively making this one of the great and outstanding experiences of my life. Experienced mission participants once again were paid back by the gratitude of the patients and community which was truly heartfelt. I hope that the first time mission participants felt this also, that it may further inspire you to follow the impulse to help other humans who are in need. You can all proudly tell the story of our mission and maybe also inspire other kind-hearted people to help in their own way. If you feel good about your association with the WSF, continue to support and publicize its mission going forward. The foundation is, after all, composed of individuals and will always benefit from your support.

Finally, I extend the invitation to contact me anytime. I would love to visit or talk with any of you. Please feel free to call or email me. If you are ever near my home in California, I would relish a visit. I hope we have an ongoing network of mutual interest and support started by our association with the WSF. I have tried to collect as many email address as possible from the WSF. If I have missed anyone or made a mistake in anyone's name it was inadvertent and I hope you will forward this letter to anyone I left out.

Also, I would like any of you to consider going to the meeting of the International College of Surgeons, US section this year May 2-4. It is held this year at Nemacolin Resort near Farmington, PA. It is closer to Pittsburgh which is not where most of the PA people live, but Google says it is a 3-hour drive from Harrisburg. Dr. Dom Alvear is scheduled to speak at the meeting and in the past he has usually played a prominent role. The evening of May 4 there will be a closing dinner and it would be a great opportunity to reconnect and tell stories. The rest of the meeting includes educational opportunities and recreational possibilities in what looks like a beautiful setting. Check out the website (www.ficsonline.org) for the agenda. If you can't make it I would still love the chance to hear from you, anytime.


This message from Dr. Downey has been edited slightly. Modifications were minimal and did not change the meaning originally expressed by the author.


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