April 23, 2007
Putting the plus in surplus
by kim urquhart
Kendra Price is helping to solve world health issues. She is not a doctor or a nurse, but a senior administrative assistant in the School of Medicine who volunteers with MedShare International.
Twice a month, Price heads to the Decatur headquarters of the nonprofit organization that sends surplus medical supplies and equipment from hospitals in the United States to clinics in developing nations. She joins other volunteers — many of them from Emory — to sort through boxes of surplus medical supplies donated by MedShare’s partner hospitals and medical centers such as those operated by Emory Healthcare.
“For many reasons, perfectly usable medical supplies — which could be used to save lives in poor countries — are required to be discarded by U.S. hospitals,” says Price. “MedShare is the bridge that gets them to the people who need them most.”
Some medical products, such as those donated by medical supply manufacturers, are new and still in the original packaging. Others may be an item that hospitals must discard, such as the unused portion of a multi-pack of gauze, Price explains.
Price often recognizes surgery tools from her previous position at Emory, where as administrative assistant to the chief of surgery she helped organize continuing medical education for surgeons. But volunteers need not have a medical background — an orientation and ample signage are provided to assist with identification.
Once evaluated, sorted, repacked and inventoried, the materials are shipped to recipient hospitals in 85 countries around the globe. The contents of each container are tailored to meet the needs list of each recipient, and range from tubing and exam gloves sent to a clinic in Western Africa to a neonatal resuscitation table that assisted doctors at a hospital in South America.
MedShare has teamed with the Rollins School of Public Health to measure the program’s impact. That impact extends to the environment. “Without MedShare we’d have tons of waste, so it’s great for the earth and the environment if we can recycle these unused surplus medical supplies and equipment instead of throwing them away,” says Price, who notes that MedShare has saved 300,000 cubic feet of landfill space.
Price first learned of the organization through a colleague, Kim Fugate. “I would watch as Kim would box up miscellaneous supplies from the CME course that we helped organize, and she explained that she donates the used supplies to MedShare,” Price recalls. “Then one day as I was driving home from the high school football field where my son had marching band practice, I passed by the MedShare home office. That’s when I decided to get involved.”
Her son also plans to pitch in as a MedShare volunteer, and she encourages others in the Emory community to donate their time and talent. “It’s a great humanitarian effort and shows that you care about the environment. It’s a great experience to help someone else, and this is one of the ways in which you can do so,” says Price, who is helping to “get the word out” as a public relations and marketing intern for MedShare.
Price balances her time at Emory and MedShare with courses at DeVry University, where she is pursuing a degree in marketing. From helping her son raise money for his recent band trip to South Africa to helping her friends promote their businesses, Price has found that she has a growing interest in marketing. “I like to talk to people and I like to write,” she says. “My classes at DeVry and my internship at MedShare provide me with additional skills needed to help people build and grow their businesses.”
Price recently joined Mentor Emory to get a “clearer direction” of her career goals. The program pairs staff participants with experienced mentors. Before joining Emory, the native Atlantan spent 10 years as an insurance supervisor. She says she’d eventually like to pursue marketing, or possibly human resources. “I just know that I want to be in a place where I can help people,” Price says.
Mentor Emory has inspired Price to develop a similar program aimed at helping young men in her own community. “I feel that so many of our young men need someone that they can confide in and look up to, and I know some quality adult men who would like to help our youth,” Price says. “I’m in the beginning stages of development, but I do see this as being a positive step toward reaching and teaching our young men how to grow and develop into great adults.”