Note: the post below was this blog’s first. I am reposting it in honor of my brother, Brendan, who receives the 2012 American College of Surgeons ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Award in a ceremony in Chicago, October, 2, 2012.
I can’t say I really know him, but one’s got to help a neighbor hasn’t one?
No, we should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power.
— Albert Camus, The Plague
Before I read The Plague by Albert Camus, I was very familiar with it. The Plague tells of the moral and ethical responses to the arrival of the bubonic plague in the Algerian port city of Oran. My older brother read it as a pre-med student, and the novel was formative in his thinking about the world, his obligations to it and moral decision-making.
Clearly, Brendan was moved by the narrator, Dr. Rieux, who accepts the moral challenge and cares for the ill, despite the grave risk to himself. And, so, in his career as a surgeon, Brendan has provided pro bono services to those in need, most recently for one week per year in Haiti.
Shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake, he received a three word e-mail message from his hospital colleagues in Haiti: WE NEED YOU! He arrived in Haiti within 72 hours and worked tirelessly for a week straight, probably to the point of exhaustion.
His decision criterion? I am guessing it was simple, something like Dr. Rieux’s: “There’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is “common decency.”
From the American College of Surgeons
The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Volunteerism Award recognizes ACS Fellows and members committed to giving back to society through significant contributions to surgical care as volunteers.
Brendan C. Brady, MD, FACS, will receive the Surgical Volunteerism Award for domestic outreach in recognition of his extraordinary service to the underserved migrant population in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.
A Buffalo, NY native and resident of Canandaigua, NY, Dr. Brady received his undergraduate education at Canisius College in Buffalo and the University of Toronto, ON, from which he graduated. After completing medical school at the State University of New York at Buffalo and residency at Buffalo General Hospital, Dr. Brady practiced general surgery with the Canandaigua Medical Group in Canandaigua for the next 30 years.
When his children were out of college, Dr. Brady revisited his initial motivation to pursue medicine: to help those most in need. He engaged in volunteer work initially with InterVol, a Rochester, NY, community-based not-for-profit organization, using his own vacation time for several years to provide relief for the sole surgeon at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.
It was a 2004 encounter with a migrant farm worker, however, that motivated Dr. Brady to contact and offer his services to Finger Lakes Migrant Health (since renamed Finger Lakes Community Health), a community health center providing basic health care to approximately 8,600 migrant farm workers in upstate New York.
Understanding the significant barriers this itinerant population faces in accessing quality surgical care, such as lack of transportation, language, and cultural barriers, as well as financial costs, Dr. Brady established a surgical clinic to augment the primary care and mobile health services provided by the agency. In addition to consulting and treating patients at the monthly clinic, Dr. Brady made arrangements with F. F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua to address more serious conditions at reduced rates by offering his services gratis. As a result of these efforts, migrant farm workers in the Finger Lakes area are able to receive surgical care otherwise unavailable. Many have had operations, such as hernia repair, that enable them to continue working so they can provide for themselves and their families. As Dr. Brady approaches retirement, his efforts are focused on developing a network of surgeons that will provide predictable, affordable, and high-quality care for the migrant population.
For 20 years, Dr. Brady also has served on the Board of Directors and as an officer of the Monroe Plan, an initiative that provides the underserved in the greater Rochester area with stable health insurance and access to physicians and other health care providers. Dr. Brady’s dedication to the underserved also extends overseas; since 2006, he has volunteered each year at the Hospital Sacre-Coeur in Milot, Haiti, through the Center for the Rural Development of Milot Foundation, Inc.