Greg Mundis, MD ’03, takes four weeks per year off from his practice as a spine surgeon at Scripps hospitals in Southern California to volunteer for Global Spine Outreach, providing free treatment for children with spinal deformities.
The volunteer work has occasionally required him to be a medical MacGyver, cobbling together surgical solutions from the materials at hand. For example, on one of his first trips to Mexico, some of the GSO team’s equipment was stopped at the border. The doctors were forced to postpone several surgeries, but one child had such severe scoliosis, he was in danger of paralysis.
“We said, ‘OK, literally, we have four screws, we have two hooks and that’s it, and we have to do this 14-level fusion,’ ” Mundis recalled. “So we’re in the middle of the surgery, and we needed more stuff, because this kid needed more fixation. So we said, ‘Bring anything you have in the room.’ They brought in all these different wires, things the heart surgeons were using years ago.
“We jury-rigged this construct using Mersilene tape, wires from cardiac surgery and the four screws and two hooks that we had. The cool thing is, the patient did phenomenal and three years out from surgery is doing great.”
Mundis received one of three Outstanding Young Physician awards at the 2017 Alumni Awards Ceremony. He will be the featured speaker at the White Coat Ceremony at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 3 at Jesse Hall.
In addition to Mexico, Mundis' medical outreach destinations have included Colombia, Brazil, Kenya and China. Global Spine Outreach usually sends teams of 15, including three surgeons, for weeklong trips. The teams set up in a hospital and work with local doctors and staff to treat children with conditions such as scoliosis, kyphosis and cerebral palsy.
“It’s the purest medicine that can be practiced,” Mundis said. “We make no money. If anything, we lose a bunch, because we’re not working for a week. The only thing you really care about is getting the kid better.
“The other fun thing is just the environment you’re operating in. You have to adapt your skill set to a different environment. You try to help impart Western standards to a culture that is not accustomed to that level of care. To be able to elevate the game for the whole team around you is pretty cool.”
Join us on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Jesse Hall for the annual White Coat Ceremony. Students entering their first year of medical school will receive their white coats. The Class of 2022 includes 112 students. The MU School of Medicine received 2,671 applications for the class, the highest number ever received by the school.