AVF Members Abroad - Amigos de Salud

By: Nick Morrison, MD - Founder of Amigos de Salud

Amigos de Salud is a USA-based, non-profit, volunteer medical organization, founded in 1989 by Nick and Terri Morrison that annually brings together a group of nurses, physicians, technologists, and lay volunteers, collecting and/or purchasing medical equipment and supplies and then traveling to developing countries, everyone at their own expense, in order to examine and treat patients by performing diagnostic and interventional procedures.  All medical services, equipment, supplies, and medications are provided to patients at no charge. Industry partners (Cook, Medi, Juzo, Sigvaris, CircAid, Angiodynamics, HK surgical, STD Pharmacy, Kreussler, Zonare, Lohmann and Rauscher, UMI, Compudiagnostics) have been instrumental and very generous in donating equipment and product to be used, as have our volunteer core who not only donate their time and expertise, but also purchase any equipment needed that cannot be donated.

For over 20 years Amigos de Salud have annually led this group of medical volunteers to Central or South America to deliver medical care to the indigent people of Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, and most recently Nicaragua.  Starting with just 14 volunteers in 1989, Amigos de Salud has grown to over 90 persons, including specialists from the fields of phlebology, general medicine, pulmonary, ENT, Ob-Gyn, gastroenterology, orthopedic, plastic surgery, colon and rectal surgery, audiology, and general surgery accompanied by nurses, nurse practitioners, technicians, and even family members.

Amigos de Salud has no paid staff and no overhead, assuring that it is a 100% volunteer effort. As you might imagine, this is a huge endeavor only made possible by generous supporters. The volunteers of Amigos work throughout the year to gather equipment and donations to go to Central and South American countries so they can set up and perform complex operations in a matter of days. Surgeries and medical care is provided in established hospitals and clinics. Over 5000 patients have been evaluated and treated each year over the course of workdays, so hours are long but ultimately very rewarding.

After phlebologic services were added in 2006 Amigos de Salud has involved phlebologists from Italy, France, Belgium, Netherland, Ukraine, and USA, and include endovenous thermal and chemical ablation, ambulatory phlebectomy, CHIVA (including “laser-assisted” column interruption), ultrasound-guided and visual sclerotherapy, and perforator ablation. Most recently Amigos de Salud has primarily focused on treating outpatients with severe venous disease, but because the clinic in which we work does not have the funds for equipment to provide more sophisticated deep venous care, treatment is limited to severe superficial venous disease, Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, and other venous malformations.

This year the group will return to Matagalpa, Nicaragua to again work with the Fara Foundation, also a non-profit organization founded by Manny and Maria Fara of Austin, Texas. Steven Reeder, MD, a phlebologist from Dallas, Texas has worked with the Fara Foundation and introduced them to Amigos in 2010. The Fara Foundation, based in Matagalpa, also has a Food-for-the-poor program, an elder-care nursing facility, and the Fara clinic offering a broad spectrum of medical care, all at no cost to patients.

The phlebology group this year will include the following physicians: from Italy, Drs. Cavezzi, Mosti, Urso, Tessari (2), Gianesini, Zini, Campana, and from the U.S., Drs. Morrison, Mowatt-Larssen, and Cortesi; the following sonographers: Diana Neuhardt, Joe Zygmunt, Barbara Pohl-Schulze, phlebology nurses Janice Beans, Susie Baker, and Terri Morrison; along with a number of important allied personnel. The group is expected to see and treat over 1000 patients over the 5-6 day work period. This is the ultimate “busman’s holiday”.

Poverty and political unrest is a devastating problem throughout South and Central America.  Access to medical care is often restricted for the indigent population. Each volunteer has his or her own motivation for sacrificing their time, money, and effort to help these deserving patients. The common thread is a desire to help others less fortunate than themselves.

For more information about Amigos de Salud, contact Chrissy Roachat the Morrison Vein Institute, 480.860.6455, chrissy@morrisonveininstitute.com

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