Renowned surgeon will visit North Fork to discuss effort to heal the poor

10/21/2011 3:00 PM |

Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, chief of international surgery at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., will be in town Friday, Nov. 4, to discuss his worldwide effort to help heal the poor.

True, it’s Halloween season, but one Southold woman who’ll be running around town in costume won’t be on her way to a party or out trick-or-treating.

Dressed as Jiminy Cricket, Marguerite Schondebare will be walking the town to raise awareness about Dr. Glenn Geelhoed’s upcoming visit to Southold. Dr. Geelhoed, chief of international surgery at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., will be in town Friday, Nov. 4, to discuss his worldwide effort to help heal the poor. He will speak at First Presbyterian Church in Southold at 6:30 p.m.

He’s the man who inspired Ms. Schondebare to launch the Circle of Health, a local program that helps patients with transportation; presents speakers from the health care field; and supports international to health care delivery efforts.

First Presbyterian Church has now spread the program to other congregations and individuals throughout the town.

Dr. Geelhoed also provided the inspiration for Ms. Schondebare’s “Give A Little Whistle” program, which provides whistles for patients to use as call buttons in some of the hospitals in various African and Asian countries where Dr. Geelhoed operates. Whistles have also gone to children in Third World countries, some of whom received them as the only toys they’ve ever had.

During Dr. Geelhoed’s visit, a chorus of North Fork children will serenade him with Jiminy Cricket’s “Give A Little Whistle” song from the Disney film “Pinocchio.”

“I did not know who he was — this world-famous doctor,” Ms. Schondebare said. A little research quickly revealed that Dr. Geelhoed spends three to six months a year traveling the world to treat patients and train other caregivers. He has been honored by many groups, but is always focused not on what he’s giving to those in need of medical care, but what he learns from his patients.

Ms. Schondebare quoted Dr. Geelhoed as saying, “I look at the poor and I see people of strength and resilience,” and explained that he’s been struck by the optimism of patients in some of the most desperate parts of the world. While others see desperation and poverty in their faces, she said, Dr. Geelhoed sees only hope for a better future.

“I have been so moved by him,” she said.

Ms. Schondebare hopes the doctor’s visit to Southold will not only inspire others in the community to reach out and volunteer time and energy, but will educate students about the many jobs that exist, not only as surgeons, but as support staff helping those in need.

And, yes, she is aware that some Americans think the country is spending too on aid to other countries while ignoring programs at home. But only about 1 percent of America’s gross national product is being spent on foreign aid, she said.

If the desire is to give and serve here, she added, there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

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