One World Surgery: Someone's miracle
Wyatt Decker, MD, MBA, OptumHealth CEO
Wyatt Decker, MD, MBA, joined Optum in 2019 and is CEO of OptumHealth. His volunteer work in developing nations as a medical student still influences his outlook today.
"I have always had an interest in providing solutions for health care in medical centers in the United States, but also in developing countries. My first experience was as a medical student in a remote mountain valley in Papua New Guinea. I volunteered doing six months of care at a small hospital."
At the time, many of Dr. Decker's fellow students at the Mayo School of Medicine signed up for research labs in the summers, but he was interested in directly helping those at risk of maternal mortality in developing nations.
"My research was around women who die in maternity or shortly thereafter, and how I could help them."
Arriving in Papua, the facility he encountered was not something you would find at a state-of-the-art hospital in the United States. He quickly learned the importance of doing what you can with what you have.
One patient had been in labor in her village for several days — she was suffering a breech, where the baby is turned in a way that is not optimal for delivery.
"She walked eight miles through the rain forest to get to the hospital," Dr. Decker recounted.
He was able to reposition the baby and make a successful delivery. The situation showed him the hardships women face and the challenges people have to overcome in an under-resourced environment.
His Papua New Guinea experience stuck with him and over the years he continued to volunteer in countries like Kenya and Haiti where he also treated severe wounds, tropical infections and chronic diseases.
Optum and One World Surgery
"So, when I joined Optum I was very excited to learn about One World Surgery — an Optum partner organization with a surgery center in Honduras and one under construction in the Dominican Republic," he shared. "It brings clinicians like us and general volunteers into situations where we can help those most in need."
Dr. Decker visited the Dominican Republic in the autumn of 2020. He was very impressed with the team working in primary care and overseeing the groundbreaking for a new surgery center – which happens to be an Optum-funded primary care clinic. It also has a visitor center that will accommodate volunteers.
"Our history with One World Surgery at Optum began through Optum Care's Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) who partnered with them for many years. We were able to help grow the relationship. I am pleased to help with the support and fundraising — and excited to go there and help."
David Evanich, an orthopedic surgeon with SCA in Dallas, Texas, and longtime volunteer doctor with One World Surgery, stated, "When you perform surgeries on these patients such as what I specialize in — hip replacement — many have lived with pain for years and are resigned to their fate. They hope for a miracle. And then we come in and help them…and who wouldn't want to be a part of someone's miracle?"
Dr. Decker added, "Volunteers come back with a new sense of purpose. Since my first trip as a medical student the feeling is the same. The miracles happen on both sides."
To find more information on One World Surgery and volunteer opportunities for physicians and support teams for upcoming medical missions in Honduras and the Dominican Republic, visit oneworldsurgery.org.