By Raul Reyes

The story of how a group of University of Texas Medical Branch physicians, residents and alumni recently went on a surgical medical mission to help some of the Dominican Republic’s poorest residents had its beginnings several years ago.

How the entourage ended up in one of the poorest parts of the Western Hemisphere begins with Dr. Dennis Gore, a surgeon at University of Texas Medical Branch, and Dr. Bert Hart, a University of Texas Medical Branch alum, who now practices in Bryan and cofounded the Hispaniola Medical Charity as a way to honor Hart’s father who was a well-respected surgeon in Puerto Plata.

“Bert and I had done medical missions to Guatemala for years,” Gore said. “I would see Bert and his father at medical meetings, and Bert’s father would invariably ask, ‘Why don’t you go to Puerto Plata?’”

Despite the many years of mission work in Guatemala, Hart and Gore said that they were overwhelmed by the welcoming arms of the people of Puerto Plata.

Gore, also a University of Texas Medical Branch alum, said one reason he volunteers is to help people who truly need help.

“People cry out of happiness and gratitude. We don’t make money. We pay our own way. It’s my own time, but what you get is this tremendous sense of personal satisfaction — of helping someone.”

Dr. Matt Dacso, director of University of Texas Medical Branch’s Center for Global Health Education, traveled with the group last month. He came away impressed with the charity, but even more so with the University of Texas Medical Branch volunteers.

“It was amazing to me how these alumni have stayed close and have decided to donate their time, money and effort toward serving the poor in the Dominican Republic,” Dacso said.

It’s through the work of the charity group that University of Texas Medical Branch’s global health programs have begun long-term collaborations in the Dominican Republic, which allow students and faculty to work on education and research projects that benefit impoverished communities, Dacso said.

The group had fundraisers in Galveston and Bryan and raised about $30,000 for supplies that filled more than 40 medical trunks. The group also took some medical equipment that they donated to the hospital, as well as any unused medical supplies.

Over four days, the team of 27 treated and operated on patients for dental issues, gall bladder problems, sinus problems, vein conditions and many others issues. They performed more than 60 surgeries and 56 vein procedures. The vascular surgeon, by the way, is Hart’s brother, Hugo, who practices in Florida.

“We try to do the most good while we’re there, doing what we thought we could have the greatest benefit,” Gore said.