Wellness News 7-23
Sunday, December 7, 2008

By Deana M. Newman, MA, CCP

The Dominican Republic, the first permanent European settlement in the Americas and home to the second largest city within the Caribbean, has a current population of over eight-million.  It is encompassed by the warmth of the sun, beautiful blue skies, and pristine waters.  Unfortunately, it is also home to a vast number of uninsured and underinsured citizens due to the absence of a viable healthcare system. 

Currently, the Dominican population warrants the need of eight-thousand adult and eight-hundred pediatric cardiac surgeries, yet is only able to accommodate five-hundred cases annually, leaving many to suffer through lack of medical treatment.  Dr. José Norberto, Dominican Republic native and Director of Cardiac Surgery at Fairfield Medical Center in Fairfield, Ohio, developed the International Cardiac Care Foundation (ICCF), a 501(c)3 organization, in an effort to answer the call of need.  “Healthcare services are just so limited here, due to a lack of resources, manpower and a poor economy”, said Dr. Norberto. 

In addition to the thousands of untreated cardiac patients, other health disparities within the Dominican Republic include a high incidence rate of HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, access of improved sanitized water and hepatitis according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ICCF was developed in 2001 to not only provide free cardiac surgical care to people within developing countries, but most importantly, to educate patients, families and training medical personnel.  “The Dominican has provided me with a free education and as a result, I have so much to give back and I'm inspired by the difference made within the lives of others”, said Norberto on the inspiration for creating ICCF.  Today, ICCF is comprised of over forty volunteers from central Ohio area hospitals, nationwide and worldwide.  October 2008, marked its seventh year of existence and completion of eight additional cardiac cases and educational sessions. 
Long-term, the vision of ICCF is to become a permanent fixture within the Dominican Republic.  However, such a service relies on private and partial funding from the Dominican government to support the purchase of equipment, disposable supplies, transportation and lodging for a staff of at least twenty health professionals.

For more information on the International Cardiac Care Foundation, to make a tax-deductible donation, sponsor a mission or become a volunteer, visit www.theiccf.org, or contact Dr. José Norberto at the Fairfield Medical Center at 740-681-9020.  The ICCF thrives under the motto "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime", a simplistic yet powerful guide toward the betterment of mankind. 


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