By John Carruthers, staff writer, March 1, 2012
Winchester, Va., dermatologist Stephen Flax, MD, found himself looking for volunteer opportunities abroad a few years ago. When he wasn’t able to find many, he helped pave the way for himself and other dermatologists to participate in more volunteer endeavors in countries throughout the world.
After becoming involved with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) and taking a trip to the organization’s site in Peru, Dr. Flax helped HVO set up a volunteer site in Costa Rica. He now vets candidates who approach HVO about offering their services at the volunteer site.
“I enjoy helping people who don’t receive the standard of health care that we enjoy in this country.”
- The first trip Dr. Flax took overseas to Ecuador opened his eyes to the necessity of improving medical care globally. “We did the clinic on what was basically a garbage dump,” he said. “There was one child I saw who needed surgery. I couldn’t do it on site, so we had to find a private dermatologist who would let me use his office for the procedure.”
- Despite not being in an academic setting, Dr. Flax has participated in educational trips, doing the extra work to lecture three to four days a week to medical students in South America work he said he enjoyed greatly. “They’re very book smart in those areas. What they lack is the resources. They’re most interested in how we do it here,” he said. “They’re interested in viral diseases, especially warts, which are difficult to treat no matter where you are.”
- In addition to his work overseas, Dr. Flax sees patients from three local free clinics in his office on a referral basis. He provides treatment, procedures, and pathology services to patients free of charge.
- “I like doing service work. If anything, I wish there were more opportunities through secular organizations to do dermatology-specific service work abroad,” he said. “I like seeing the way they do things in other countries and exchanging ideas with dermatologists there.”
To nominate a physician, visit www.aad.org/membersmakingadifference.