DOs that Do!

Dr. HeithoffBy Steven J. Heithoff, DO, FAOAO

The AOAO is filled with extremely talented individuals, but these talents are NOT limited to only Orthopedic Surgery! There are surgeons among us who do amazing things, and who have unique and interesting talents in the arts, music, sports, community service, etc.

The purpose of “DOs that Do” is to showcase these individuals and their special talents or contributions.

This first article is about Germaine Fritz, DO, FAOAO, a hand fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon practicing in Novi/Farmington Hills, Michigan. Dr. Fritz has 15 years of overseas “mission” or volunteer work in Central America, South America and Africa.  See the list HERE.

Dr. Fritz
Dr. Fritz in surgery.

Dr. Fritz has a very interesting perspective on volunteer work!

Q: (Dr. Heithoff) What motivated you to pursue overseas volunteer work?
A (Dr. Fritz): An Orthopedics Overseas / Hand Surgery Overseas trip is all about why I became a physician - caring for people who truly need help. It's working with individuals in their home territory, respecting their culture and ideas and sharing ideas together from different parts of the world.

The playing field is leveled and we are just trying to care for people and learn from each other.

Q: What about the lack of supplies and equipment?
A: The lack of technology, combined with the need to use creative judgment and diagnostic skills, is challenging and rewarding.  The absence of politics, EMR and ICD 10 is refreshing! 

Q: How did you decide to make the commitment to volunteer?
A: When I first thought about volunteering I was new in practice, I was finishing my boards, I was new in my practice/group - lots of excuses. Then one day I said to myself, "If you want to do it, DO IT!"  Never a regret!

Q: How are cultures different?
A: Customs, circumstances, and rituals are different, but people laugh, love, learn and care in the same ways throughout the world. What I found most rewarding is connecting with and teaching people.  I enjoy the enthusiasm they have for learning.  They appreciate the interaction with volunteers because they can't get the same experience from a book or the internet. 

Q. What is a typical day?
A: Each location has different needs but typically you teach - formally or not, do rounds, surgery, emergency room visits just like home with a twist.

Q:  What is your take home message on volunteering?
A: Each time I go on a trip I receive more than I give - emotionally, educationally, and spiritually.  Just DO IT!   You will never regret it.

See my “Myths Debunked” below.  None of these excuses are very good!

Q: How can I get involved?
A. or phone my office number, 248-381-5777, and leave your number and best time to call.

Pic 1
The femur sticking out is in an 11 year-old who broke it four years earlier!!! Yes four years earlier!  Sleeps on dirt floor in hut. Has slit like scars around it from "a healer", who probably saved his life by letting the pus drip out instead of becoming totally septic. He is from a remote tribe in Ethiopia, traveled a great distance to get to us. All the locals commented on how tall they were!

Pic 2
Ethiopian boy’s family. See the horizontal scars on foreheads of two tall guys. They are cut as part of ritual in their tribe.

Pic 3
The healer is the older man in bed, with us in white coats around him. From near Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

Pic 5
Hospital ward.

Dr. Fritz’s Volunteer Service

  • 2003, Peru
  • 2004, Costa Rica
  • 2005, Honduras
  • 2006, St. Lucia
  • 2007, St. Lucia
  • 2008, Nicaragua
  • 2009, Nicaragua
  • 2010, Costa Rica
  • 2011, Ethiopia
  • 2012, Ethiopia
  • 2014, Ghana
  • 2015, Nicaragua
  • 2016, Tanzania
  • 2017, Tanzania

Debunking Myths about Volunteering Oversees

  1. Spouses can’t go.  There isn’t anything for them to do.
  2. My children won’t have anything to do.
  3. It’s not safe for my family or me.
  4. I don’t speak the language so I won’t be able to communicate.
  5. I can’t take the time away from my practice.
  6. I’m only a general orthopedist, or subspecialist, I won’t be useful.
  7. I don’t have any experience teaching, I don’t have lectures prepared, I won’t be useful.
  8. It is too costly for me to go.

- Germaine Fritz, July 2017

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