Scripps Mercy medical volunteers change lives of children in Mexico

Thu October 30, 2014 9:09pm

With precision and artistry, plastic surgeon Larry McCarthy, M.D., is a master at his craft. Thanks to his altruistic spirit, he has been a volunteer with Scripps Health’s Mercy Outreach Surgical Team since the organization was founded in 1988.
As a member of the all-volunteer medical group, Dr. McCarthy has been traveling to Mexico’s interior for decades now to provide free surgeries for poor children who have physical deformities caused by birth defects or accidents. As a M.O.S.T. volunteer, Dr. McCarthy re-constructs missing ears, removes extra fingers and toes, closes cleft lips and palates and repairs burn scars.
“I’m honored to exercise my ability to change a life,” says Dr. McCarthy. “In an hour and a half we can repair a physical condition and contribute to a patient’s long-term success.”
Since its founding, M.O.S.T. has conducted 10,781 free surgeries, mainly in central Mexico. The group includes plastic surgeons, general surgeons, ophthalmic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, operating room technicians, pharmacists, orthoptists and other volunteers. It was started by two Scripps Mercy nurses, Pat Robinson and Judy Hames. The group has grown and expanded over the years.
 “When I first started with M.O.S.T., we performed surgery on 35 to 40 patients per trip,” recalls Dr. McCarthy. “Now, we typically do that in a day. Our team is incredibly efficient.”
M.O.S.T. is a community benefit program of Scripps Health, which provides technical and other support for the medical group. The volunteer program is supported entirely by philanthropy, including grants and fundraising events.  The Price Challenge Grant was recently awarded to M.O.S.T. to help raise funds for the Mary Ann Rumsey Endowment, named in memory of the wife of Eugene Rumsey, M.D., a Scripps Mercy surgeon and M.O.S.T. volunteer. The grant will match, dollar for dollar, all gifts made to M.O.S.T. through Dec. 31, 2014.
Patients who benefit from M.O.S.T. have a better chance of overcoming feeding difficulties, language and educational delays, and low self-esteem. Without the team’s efforts, many of its patients might not otherwise receive care.
“Through M.O.S.T., we are able to give kids a fighting chance,” says Dr. McCarthy. “They are no longer going to fail or get left behind because of a physical deformity.”
Exemplifying this outcome, Dr. McCarthy recently crossed paths with a former patient during the mission trip to Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico, in March 2014. As he was walking down the street, he heard a man call out, “Tio, Tio.” Dr. McCarthy is fondly referred to as “Tio” (meaning uncle) by his M.O.S.T. patients.
“As I turned to see who was shouting, a young fellow ran up and I recognized him from years ago,” says Dr. McCarthy. “When he was about 11 years old, I repaired his ear. Today, he is in his 20s, an engineering student and on his way to fulfilling his dreams.”
During the Tehuacan trip, Dr. McCarthy and 44 other M.O.S.T. volunteers worked together to perform more than 120 surgeries. Collectively, their efforts helped uplift the spirits and self-esteem of many children, like Dr. McCarthy’s former patient, who are on the brink of realizing their full potential. 
The best way to get involved and help M.O.S.T. continue to improve children’s lives is through financial support. For more information about M.O.S.T., call (619) 721-7313 or visit scripps.org/mercymost.