Scrooging Your Health? The Benefits of Giving Back
Posted 11/30/2017 by UHBlog
Read how one person’s efforts to give back by improving the health of those less fortunate benefit him emotionally and physically. If your health is a factor that keeps you from having a more positive outlook, talk to us.
For more than a decade, head and neck surgeon Chad Zender, MD has been traveling to African and Caribbean countries to provide ear, nose and throat (ENT) medical care. Why does he do this?
According to Dr. Zender, he derives personal and health benefits, which energizes him long after he’s back from his journey.
“The biggest reward is hard to describe,” Dr. Zender says. “It’s the feeling (I get) that comes from collaborating with others and building bridges with people from another country – working with someone from a different culture – it’s super rewarding.”
In the end, Dr. Zender’s personal involvement has provided him with a number of physical and emotional benefits that include:
- Improving his own health, such as reducing his blood pressure
- Being grateful, especially for his wife’s and immediate family’s support
- Sharing his volunteerism and values with his children
- Mentoring his students
- Creating friendships and connections within University Hospitals, his patients and community and Ugandan doctors and fellows, some of whom come to University Hospitals Ear, Nose & Throat Institute for best-practices training they then take back to Uganda
Involvement with service projects was something Dr. Zender was exposed to in college – and it stuck with him.
“My interest started as a college freshman,” he says. “I worked with other students at a community outreach center. I saw the needs out there and when I volunteered, I got emotional and overall fulfillment from that experience.”
But it wasn't until 2007 while he was a fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that he realized he could make a difference.
“I started going regularly with my mentor, Dr. Jim Netterville (a head and neck surgeon at Vanderbilt) to Nigeria,” Dr. Zender says. “A lot of what I saw and was able to do was eye-opening for me.”
What started as an individual contribution is now a far-reaching, group activity in Uganda, where University Hospitals already had medical outreach efforts established. Through these connections, Dr. Zender and his nurse partner, Katrina Harrill, RN – also a big proponent of giving back – got a foothold.
The two lead a group of ENT specialists from University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to Uganda twice a year for two-week surgical camps. The group of about seven typically includes a mix of physicians, nurses, fellows, residents and medical students. During their first trip In November 2014, the team performed 10 surgeries – the first at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) – and provided a cadaver course and lectures to medical students and residents at Makerere University, working with Ugandan head and neck surgeons Jeff Otiti, MD, and Justine Namwagala, MD, and UCI director Jackson Orem, MD.
The Dr. Zender-led group – with funding from philanthropic gifts and grants – has continued to return to UCI. The procedures they perform run the gamut and include everything from exams under anesthesia to assess a patient’s airway to removing salivary gland tumors to major, 8-to 10-hour procedures that require removing large jaw tumors and reconstruction with free tissue transplantation.
“Doing this volunteering work has reset my perspective,” he says. “We are helping people with maladies they live with every day, some of them benign conditions that would be easily treated here or that we would have addressed with patients in this country long ago. But because Uganda has a physician shortage, they have no choice. The help we provide is life-changing for them.”
Of course, not everyone who volunteers is able to travel to other countries, U.S. cities or even other Northeast Ohio regions. Still, studies show they get satisfaction in giving back in some capacity, for instance, through charitable giving. According to Philanthropy Ohio, of the $7.42 billion that Ohioans gave to charity in 2014, 81 percent of that came from individuals. Nationally, between 70 and 90 percent of all U.S. households donate to charity in a given year and the typical household’s annual gifts add up to between $2,000 and $3,000.
Chad Zender, MD is a head and neck surgeon at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, University Hospitals Westlake Health Center and University Hospitals Chagrin Highlands Health Center. You can
request an appointment with Dr. Zender or any other doctor online.