Have you ever needed to finish a school project, but found that you didn’t have the right materials? Or wanted to fix something around the house, but didn’t have the right tools for the job? Fortunately, most of us have the resources to readily obtain what we need. But for some people in developing nations searching for adequate healthcare, a lack of equipment can become a matter of life or death. Those living in medically underserved regions or areas of poverty and intense political discrimination often do not have the same access to medical resources that we tend to take for granted.
SHARE (Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment) was created to right this inequality. SHARE is a volunteer organization of dedicated physicians, nurses, medical students, and undergraduate students. We all work together to send otherwise unattainable supplies overseas, trying to ensure that people don’t suffer more for want of basic medical equipment.
SHARE is able to do this by collaborating with the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH). Dozens of surgical procedures a day require dozens of pounds of equipment. It turns out that according to hospital regulations, all of the equipment in the operating rooms must be discarded, even though many items are actually unused. This is because they are no longer considered sterile and their redistribution within the hospital is prohibited. SHARE collects these unused and clean medical supplies and redistributes them instead to developing nations, where they will be sterilized before use. At the same time we benefit the hospital by reducing its solid waste. Thus, we’re sharing health and doing our part for the environment
.At Homewood the undergraduate portion of SHARE has been undergoing unbelievable growth. In two years, the number of undergraduate volunteers surged from 4 to 125 members and is still growing. There may be many reasons for this rapid increase but we do have a few ideas. An important one is the flexibility of what we expect from our volunteers. Led by a team of hard-working students, we understand our fellow busy students and their unpredictable schedules. Accordingly, we ask volunteers to sort and pack equipment a minimum of two hours a month and attend one half hour meeting a month, with the volunteer hours to be completed at their convenience. You may be surprised that this low individual commitment is enough to accomplish anything significant. But by working diligently together, SHARE completed some amazing work last year alone. Last year we shipped out about 10,000 pounds of medical equipment that would otherwise have been occupying a nearby landfill.
The spirit of camaraderie also makes it hard not to be a part of SHARE, since we work closely with the physicians, nurses, and medical students downtown. We coordinate with each other every step of the way towards our common objective, which also happens to provide frequent networking opportunities and leadership experiences throughout the year. We make these opportunities explicit as well, through events that bring all the members of SHARE together to promote awareness of how we can use our abundant resources to aid countries in need. In the spring semester of last year SHARE hosted an event called Sharing Health with the World, where Dr. Richard Redett, our Hopkins faculty sponsor and the director of SHARE, offered his perspectives. He discussed his varied and diverse medical experiences as the founder of SHARE at Hopkins, as a servant on many medical mission trips, and as a leader and Director of Pediatric Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Abdullah, the director of our partner organization Humanity First in Baltimore, also shared his experience on how the items that SHARE members regularly sort directly made a difference on his medical mission trips. It was eye-opening to see how our small actions in Baltimore have a dramatic impact on lives across the globe.
The bottom line is that our members love to SHARE because with a little bit of time and a whole lot of teamwork, we are able to make a material difference in the lives of those who most need it. And it just keeps going. From our beginnings ten years ago at JHH, inspired by a similar program called REMEDY at the Yale University School of Medicine, to our thriving and expanding organization today, the attitude of giving to those in need is proving contagious. We are expanding to other medical sites around Homewood, including the Student Health and Wellness Center that cares for Hopkins students themselves, the Union Memorial Hospital across the street, and the Wyman Park Medical Center next to the campus. Others all over the East Coast and the more local University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center are currently using our example to begin SHARE programs at their own medical centers.
We’re always looking for more volunteers to share health with the world. All are welcome, from freshmen to faculty – our only requirement is that you have a serving heart. Please, contact us at SHAREathopkins@gmail.com to get involved or check out our website at http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/SHARE to find out why Hopkins loves to SHARE. Can’t wait to see you on campus and share our time together!
Lydia Liang is a sophomore majoring in Neuroscience. She loves life at Hopkins and serving others. She is blessed to be the Public Relations Officer of SHARE and one of the five leaders of the undergraduate membership.