South Florida Hospital News
Monday May 25, 2020
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December 2006 - Volume 3 - Issue 6

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Barry University’s Yucatan Project Celebrates its 10-year Anniversary

Fifty-two flights have been made and more than 5,000 crippled children in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico have received medical treatment, including life-altering surgeries as a result of the Yucatan Project at Barry University. In addition, more than 75 physicians and 50 residents have volunteered over 20,000 hours to the project, which marks its 10th year of operation at a recent celebration in Merida, Mexico.

The Yucatan Project is the brainchild of Dr. Charles Southerland, a podiatric surgeon at Barry’s School of Graduate Medical Sciences. Inspired by the Baja Project for Crippled Children in Baja, Mexico, Southerland and the physicians from Barry first made contact with officials in Yucatan in 1992 but it wasn’t until 1996 that the first surgeries were performed.

"We were introduced to the Minister of Health, the Mayor of the city of Progreso. We really wanted to make sure that we received government sanction and approval," said Southerland, who noted that Mexican doctors work hand in hand with the team from Barry to provide pre- and post-operative care to patients. In addition, to providing transportation and an anesthesiologist for each surgery, Southerland and his team carefully consult on each case with Mexican doctors.


(l-r) Dr. Charles Southerland, director of the Yucatan Crippled Children’s Project, shown here with Dr. Pedro Abrantes and Dr. Nelson Gonzalez, graduates of BU's School of Podiatric Medicine, treat a 5-year-old girl with cerebral palsy Jan. 23, 2004, in Progreso, Mexico. Three months after surgery she was able to put both of her heels flat on the floor for the first time in her life.

A typical four-day trip for the Barry team, which includes a trip director, often Southerland himself, and three residents or an attending physician, involves a demanding schedule of surgeries and consultations. After arriving in Mexico Thursday evening, the team usually performs surgeries at the Centro de Especialidades Médicas in Merida from 8 in the morning until midnight Friday, and then spends much of the day Saturday consulting at a clinic Progreso, a city about three miles of Merida, and evaluating candidates for surgery before heading back to Miami on Sunday.

Long lines often form in front of the clinic and despite the number of trips he has made, Dr. Southerland says he never fails to be impressed by the sense of caring and family exhibited by the people in the Yucatan.

"The people in the Yucatan, and in Mexico as a whole, are incredibly family focused. Every time you see a patient, whether it be a child or an elderly person, their family is always there to help them."

Although their work has benefited thousands of children and adults in the Yucatan, Southerland says the benefits to the medical students and physicians who make the trip are inestimable.

"Anyone who goes down and comes backs, never comes back disappointed," said Southerland, who noted the podiatric residents who go on the Yucatan trips often get a chance to observe and treat deformities, such as, club feet that are usually screened at birth in the United States.

The Yucatan Project is presently budgeted for 48 roundtrip tickets for physicians and residents a year and is supported by donations from private foundations. Southerland says he would eventually like to expand the project to other areas in Central America and the developing world and is also in process of accumulating a record of the project’s results, the vast majority of which have been excellent or good with no recorded infections or complications. As for Southerland, himself, he says he would like to keep making trips to the Yucatan "as long as he can" or until he is "forced to retire."

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