Gilberto Mejia, CP, was recently honored with the 2009 Volunteer of the Year/Medical Diplomat Award from Physicians for Peace. Mejia was recognized for his efforts in the Dominican Republic where he has been working with the Physicians for Peace Walking Free program to provide amputee care and physical therapy education to patients and prosthetists for eight years.
“It’s very rewarding to see patients get what they need despite the fact they are unable to afford it,” noted Mejia. “I’m honored to receive this award and know that my efforts and work are appreciated.”
When Mejia, who works at Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics in Richmond, Virginia, first started providing training to local prosthetists as part of the Walking Free program, the clinic in the Dominican Republic was making as few as seven prostheses a week, and, according to Hanger, was not providing high quality devices. Now, Hanger says the same clinic has a robust staff, is known for their quality of service, and is a self-sustaining operation that makes more than 30 prostheses a week, helping amputee children and adults rebuild their lives.
“Physicians for Peace volunteers are the forefront of our organization,” noted Physicians for Peace President and CEO Brig. Gen. Ron Sconyers (United States Air Force, Ret.). “It is the work they do in the field that has changed a countless number of lives in more than 50 countries, and the skilled group of our annual Medical Diplomat Awardees represents the best of our organization. We congratulate them for their time and dedication to bring medical care and specialized training to underserved populations around the world.”
Mejia, who has served as a Hanger prosthetist for 35 years, began volunteering with Physicians for Peace when a friend encouraged him to join the nonprofit as a way to get his mind off of his wife’s passing. Since beginning his work with the organization, Mejia has taken nearly 30 trips abroad to help local practitioners create sustainable prosthetics programs. Throughout the years, Mejia has not only helped develop a self- sustaining operation in the Dominican Republic, but he also met someone there whom he eventually married.