In St. Louis, the World Pediatric Project connects local doctors and hospitals with children in need from around the world. By Connie Mitchell
Brandon has the most beautiful smile. Not even a year old, his eyes sparkle with life, and he returns giggles and snuggles. Cindy Frank was like everyone else who met Brandon at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital: immediately drawn in by his happy personality.
life was saved… It was just unbelievably touching.” Frank has been on the job since last May, and her enthusiasm for WPP is palpable. She describes the program as a “well-kept secret,” and hopes that as people learn more about it, the nonprofit will benefit from increased volunteer and financial support. The program also has an office in Richmond, Virginia, and each year the two offices support the work of more than 40 medical teams of pediatric specialists who travel to various locations and treat children on-site, as well as identify those who need advanced treatment at partner hospitals. In addition to Cardinal Glennon, the St. Louis office partners with Family Care Health Centers, Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis, Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. WPP also works to help the underserved nations it visits create the capacity to provide more health care
for critically ill children. The organization provides skills training, equipment donations and relationships with local hospitals and governments to improve health protocols. “This is what allows us to help kids now and also in the future,” Frank says. WPP is relatively lean in terms of staff and finances, so the organization is careful to make the most of its resources. “We all work hard within the parameters of what we have,” Frank says. “We have staff who work with the international teams; and many of these teams travel year after year so we’re not necessarily putting new teams together, which makes us unique. It may be the same orthopedic team or the same cardiac team that travels to the same place every year. We have the same partnerships on the ground and they expect the same team year after year, and they’ve been searching out (children) throughout the year to get this care for them.”
photos supplied by wold pediatric project
s executive director of the World Pediatric Project’s (WPP) St. Louis office, Frank works with physicians from several partner hospitals in the St. Louis area who donate services to critically ill children in Central America and the Caribbean. One such physician is Dr. M. Babak Rahimi, a pediatric cardiologist at Cardinal Glennon and one of WWP’s partners. Under the WPP umbrella, Dr. Rahimi travels annually to the mountainous Caribbean island of Dominica, where he screens children for cardiac conditions and abnormalities. “This year, Dr. Rahimi identified two children who needed to come to St. Louis for lifesaving open-heart surgery,” Frank says. “He came back and got the hospital to agree to accept both of the patients.” One of those young patients was baby Brandon. “He was just so teeny – not eating and losing weight,” Frank recalls. “And after his surgery, oh my gosh, to see his mother when she knew that her son’s
80 LadueNews.com | September 4, 2015