Mission:BRAIN (Bridging Resources and Advancing International Neurosurgery) is a nonprofit organization with the goal of providing neurosurgical expertise and resources to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers in underserved areas throughout the world.
In 2011 Dr. Alfredo Quiñones and Dr. Michael Lawton and their team made a trip to Guadalajara, Mexico upon the invitation of Dr. Rodrigo Ramos-Zuniga. During that trip those involved realized the need and the potential for such partnerships to advance neurosurgical care in less developed areas. More trips followed and the organization evolved over the next few years to develop educational partnerships throughout Mexico, which included participation in the Sociedad de Cirugía Neurológica De Occidenta, Mexico’s national Congress of Neurological Surgery conference. More neurosurgeons also joined including Dr. George Jallo and Dr. Theodore Schwartz. It cemented the mission focus of the organization: direct neurosurgical care, education and empowerment.
In 2014, Mission:BRAIN collaborated with Dr. Gerardo Legaspi of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila to provide neurosurgical treatment to complex cerebrovascular diseases to some of their neediest patients as well as conduct symposia for physicians, nurses and support staff, including conducting the first bypass course in the country. The organization has been going to the Philippines since providing advanced training including speech and motor awake mapping for brain tumor resection with Dr. Mitchel Berger.
Last year the organization added one more partnership in Mexico City at Hospital Juarez de Mexico and continued to expand its team with a total of six physicians altogether providing both surgical care and participation at the Congress of Neuroscience. It also collaborated with other nonprofits in an effort to provide much needed neurosurgical care in Mirebalais, Haiti, where with a population of 10 million, the country only has two neurosurgeons both of whom only practice in the capital of Port Au Prince.
As more locations and partnerships are identified, Mission:BRAIN continues to be inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of its supporters and collaborators but also realizes the increasing need for resources and support. There is much work to be done, but just as our brain is made up of multitudes of neurons connected together, Mission:BRAIN is made up of many amazing individuals working together to help change the world.
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My involvement with Mission: BRAIN has been one of my most meaningful and impactful experiences while in medical school. On the mission trips, I witnessed the vital importance of physicians coming together to improve the health of others on a global scale. It was not like any other mission trip I have heard of; the point of the trip was not only to operate on complex cases but to build a sustainable infrastructure and share knowledge between all members of the health care team. The patients who I met and their stories of incredible strength and perseverance through difficult situations have stayed with me; I remember so vividly the bravery of one mother who traveled alone over 20 hours via bus to get surgery for her young son while a neighbor was watching her other children. As I go forward towards a career in neurosurgery, two of the lessons I will take forward from this experience are the importance of collaboration between surgeons from all over the world to identify specific challenges to improve global health conditions and to never stop fighting to bring equal surgical care to those afflicted by brain tumors no matter where they are located or what their circumstance might be.
When I try to talk about Mission:BRAIN, I always think about two things, one is give hope to countless patients around the world and the other is the compromise of sharing all the experience and knowledge from this amazing team of experts to our clinical teams and students. Such amazing combination was a highlight for me as a student since 2015 and a personal inspiration to continue collaborating with this cause until now. With this amazing team I learned that where there are people ready to create a little change in world, there are people watching them, who would like to also follow them, because they got inspired by their example and on the other hand this may create a big difference in the world.
Mission: BRAIN is changing more than patient lives; it is slowly changing the world by giving hope to those who need the most.
Mission: BRAIN has permitted to go back to my country Mexico and help those in dire need. Personally, I wanted to make a medical mission in Mexico City and Mission: BRAIN gave me the platform to make it happen! It is absolutely amazing that “we” nurses, medical students, volunteers, and neurosurgeons from all over the world come together as a TEAM for two goals which are to give HOPE and LEARN from our peers. The more I do these outreach missions, the more I see that we need to do more of these missions and help others in need. Being able to give back to others and make a difference in someone’s life is one of the greatest gifts.
There are many reasons that we volunteer for medical missions such as Mission: BRAIN. I personally look forward to the missions where I can help the children and families without resources to access advanced or tertiary care. It is very rewarding as a surgeon to offer such services to families in need. This is in addition to sharing knowledge with the local surgeons, residents and medical students. As much as I give to the local community, they educate me in more ways than I offer. I always return home a more knowledgeable and better person with each mission. The foundation truly is bridging continents without concern for nationality, gender, race or social status.
This experience with Mission: BRAIN has truly been life altering. It is invaluable to be able to see how different hospitals, different cultures, and different countries take excellent care of their patients. To be able to provide what I know and learn from these other institutions in order to move the field of neurosurgery forward is why this has been the highlight of my career. The goal is to eradicate barriers, whether it is financial, political, or geographic so that patients everywhere can receive the best neurosurgical care possible.
Caring is the universal language that unites us at Mission Brain, where the sum of diverse talents equals Spectacular Possibility.Staying connected to this community and its mission, rejuvenates my belief, that in the global scheme of things, even I can make a difference.
Mission: BRAIN is unlike other Medical Mission organizations I have traveled with. The organization and its members focus on the education of the nurses, resident doctors, attending surgeons, and anesthesiologists that it collaborates with, allowing those individuals to integrate new knowledge and skills into their daily lives, even after the Mission trip is over. My first experience in Guadalajara with Mission: BRAIN left me feeling inspired. Seeing the number of people that have been included in the Mission: BRAIN community, from all over the world, and how those individuals are an integral part of a team serving humans in need, created a very rich experience and left me with a full heart. I look forward to working with Mission: BRAIN in the future and am eager to see what doors they open next.
His smile reflected the sheer fulfillment of someone doing what he was passionate about, and being the best at it. That was an expert speaking to me. One day; I hope I would be able to say the same, knowing that as doctors, expertise on our part would translate to better outcomes for our patients
I have to say I am very happy to have collaborated once again with each of you, putting a bit to make the event a success. It is an honor for me to know and learn more and more of you: great people, humans and professionals. Continue helping people who need it most. You are my inspiration.
As with all of our countries, there is no perfect one but we try to make it a better place. Ours is a country of two nations, the haves and the have nots. The challenge that I have posed to myself, in my own little corner in PGH, is to equalize the opportunities for both. The romantic idea of a jeepney driver with 3 aneurysms getting the world's best treatment affirmed all of that. I believe this is what Mission: BRAIN is all about too. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, while working in French Equatorial Africa in the 50.s, once said that "if you are going to give help, give it on the terms of the recipient". You have done just that and it is awe inspiring. (You fixed aneurysms and microscopes all in one sweep!)