The day after the Tepa District Hospital in Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, received its first sonogram machine, a life was saved. The scan picked up placenta previa in a young woman who was seven months pregnant, a complication that causes hundreds of maternal and fetal deaths each year in rural Africa.
Not this time. The ultrasound’s advance warning gave Isaac Boetang, MD, chief medical officer at Tepa District Hospital, the ability to plan ahead. Instead of facing a life-threatening hemorrhage at birth, which likely would tax his hospital’s limited resources, Dr. Boetang had time to prepare for a C-section and deliver a healthy baby to a healthy mother. In the seven months since the donated instrument arrived, Dr. Boetang estimates at least 30 more babies and mothers have been saved. Tepa’s sonogram machine was supplied by Doc to Dock, a non-profit organization working on a simple premise: Collect unused, surplus supplies from U.S. hospitals for distribution to needy hospitals in emerging countries.
Doc to Dock was born as the result of a call to charitable arms sounded by former President Bill Clinton in 2005 at his first summit meeting for the Clinton Global Initiative. He told the gathering his new foundation’s goal was “to help turn good intentions into good action and results.” Among the elite crowd of CEOs and celebrities in attendance that day was an unassuming New York cardiologist, Bruce Charash, MD, a clinical associate professor at New York University and former chief of cardiac care at Lenox Hospital in New York City. “It’s possible that year I was the only person who wasn’t a celebrity,” Dr. Charash says with a humble laugh. “They were asking us to do something to make an impact on the world, but until then my only developing world experience was spring break in 1975.”
As the former president challenged his guests to change the world, an idea Dr. Charash had long been mulling over crystallized. “I took it seriously and created a new charity,” he explains. “Send medical supplies to Africa.” When he was asked about a name, he thought slowly—and out loud. Doc, of course, his profession, to Dock, he says, as the image of a ship at a foreign port popped into his head. And that is how Dr. Charash made his own personal commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative. Doc to Dock was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in February 2006. “We were the first charity formed under their umbrella,” he says. “and though we have no affiliation with them, they are an amazing support group.”
The Greek poet Homer noted some 3,000 years ago, “the charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.” Dr. Charash knew American hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and clinics, housed tons of unused medical supplies. In fact, the United Way estimates more than 7,000 tons of unused medical supplies and outdated equipment are discarded every day, either incinerated or carted off to landfills. At the same time in developing countries, thousands of patients are turned away from hospitals and medical centers due to a lack of medical supplies and equipment. Doc to Dock’s mission is to correct this imbalance.
Dr. Charash began conceiving a plan to somehow turn America’s trash—precious medical resources—into treasure, channeling the leftover sutures, scalpel blades, IV tubing, bandages, outdated equipment and machinery, old hospital beds and wheelchairs to hospitals in Africa.