May 1, 2021
As longtime listeners know, all of my guests have some type of involvement in humanitarian or philanthropic endeavors, but I have to say that Dr. Glenn Geelhoed is an all-star from that very deep bench.
He is a member of numerous medical, surgical, and international academic societies, and is an author with more than 800 published journal articles and book chapters, along with several books, including his most recent – Furthest Peoples First – which is based on his work as the founder of Mission to Heal. Dr. Geelhoed has conducted medical mission trips around the globe for over forty years, with some amazingly clever solutions to sustainable healthcare.
We started this episode with his latest book to set a context for understanding his work and the work of Mission to Heal. It’s entitled Furthest Peoples First: M2H's Mission to Teach Mobile Surgical Care for Africa's Sick, Poor, and Remote. His friend, Freeman Dyson, penned a beautiful Foreword just prior to his passing.
I love how he recognizes and values the resourcefulness of those he works with in-country, and the hope they have for their own progress. While he teaches clinical and technical skills, he does so with a refreshing ethos of humanity and humility.
Glenn noted that medical mission experiences are key to transformational learning for medical students. I very much respect his shunning the more common Colonialism often rampant in medical missions, or West-knows-best hubris, and instead his desire to “indigenize surgery.” He made key points on this philosophy vis-à-vis Mission to Heal’s vision in the context of global health and sustainable medical missions.
In spite of Glenn being more of a “workhorse than a show horse,” there are two documentary films that have been produced concerning his work—Surgery on the 6th Ring of Saturn and We Are the Ones. In one of them, he said that he’d like to be a Cheshire Cat. He explained what he meant by that and described what the films cover.
Glenn is the Cheshire Cat of humanitarian work, his smile is what’s left as he lives his life in full, and helps others to survive and live full lives.