Leawood plastic surgeon Douglas Cusick and his family have already been on more than 40 medical missions to help heal people around the world. Now, thanks to their $1 million gift to the Foundation for Shawnee Mission Medical Center, their work will be carried on in perpetuity.
The Dr. J. Douglas Cusick Medical Mission Endowment will pay for supplies, equipment and travel for Shawnee Mission Medical Center nurses, doctors and other employees. It marks Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s first foray into the ongoing organization of medical missions.
The first mission trip funded by the Cusick endowment will travel to Peru in the fall of 2016.
It won’t be the last to that nation, however. The Cusicks say they intend to continue working indefinitely with partners there to help residents in the Peruvian Amazon River basin.
Barbara Cusick said she and her husband decided to create the endowment at his hospital because they believe in its vision statement, which vows to provide “compassionate care for the whole person, following the example of Christ’s healing ministry.”
“We wanted … to help do that beyond the borders of Kansas City out into the world,” Barbara Cusick said.
Barbara Cusick is a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Shawnee Mission Medical Center and the board of trustees of Shawnee Mission Health, which is the hospital network that the medical center belongs to.
Shawnee Mission Health is part of the 44-hospital Adventist Health System, a nonprofit organization founded in 1973 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Cusicks said they became involved with medical mission trips when Douglas Cusick was attending medical school at Oral Roberts University and took a trip to Brazil. Since then, they have traveled to China, the Philippines, Argentina, Nepal and many more countries.
A mission typically lasts a week. A dozen or so people, including several physicians, fly in, triage a group of pre-selected patients and perform a series of surgeries or provide other types of care before returning home.
The care is provided free of charge to the patients, who are usually indigent and often live in rural areas. The settings vary greatly, from partner hospitals to temporary, rudimentary facilities set up in schools.
“We help bring quality of life back to people,” said Douglas Cusick. “A cleft lip or a cleft palate is common in many of the communities we visit. We can go and do a little 45-minute surgery and alter a person’s life, allowing them better eating and speech performance. Another thing we see is defects of the hand. Often there are horrible burn scars. These people live in places with no access to electricity or medical care, and since they have to heat their homes with open fires, they are susceptible to accidents.”
Barbara and Douglas Cusick have involved their three children, who are now in their 20s, in mission trips over the years. And now those young adults will help to direct the work of the family’s endowment going forward.
“This is clearly an important gift for us at Shawnee Mission Health,” said Lou Gehring, senior executive director of the Foundation for Shawnee Mission Medical Center. “We have a long tradition of medical missions, but we have never had an opportunity to do it on a long-term basis like this. I don’t want to say they’ve been ad hoc, but sporadic in the past. The Cusick endowment will allow us to launch medical missions that will have a continuing effect on the people we are serving.”
In the past, Shawnee Mission Health has partnered with Centura Global Health Initiatives to provide international medical mission trip opportunities for Shawnee Mission Health associates.
“The goal of the medical mission committee is not to do a quick fix, but to provide long-term care; to form a relationship with a city and be able to do a sustainable project, ” Barbara Cusick said.
As for the endowment, she said, “We want it go on for a long time. We hope our kids will be involved and maybe their kids and help the hospital do it for many years.”