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Transforming lives across the globe (video)

By The Health News Team | May 29, 2024

In Pantang, Ghana, there are special people — at a very special place — on a quest to provide critical orthopedic care to patients in underserved areas. Here, in this West African village, children and adults living with debilitating musculoskeletal conditions, such as scoliosis and complex spine deformities, and who otherwise would not have access to such treatment, can get the help they need to transform their lives.

“Helping the world stand tall” is the motto of this special place: FOCOS Hospital, which operates with donations and sponsorships through fundraising efforts in Ghana and the United States. Since its inception in 1998, FOCOS care providers have seen more than 100,000 patients and conducted more than 4,000 complex spine surgeries, joint replacements and more for people in critical need.

This is where the expertise of volunteer physicians like Dr. Sunil Jeswani, a neurosurgeon with Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, enter the picture. Dr. Jeswani, whose specialties include brain, skull base, spinal cord and spinal column surgeries, volunteers as a partner surgeon with the U.S. nonprofit 33 Spine Align. The organization was formed to raise money and recruit doctors for missions to FOCOS Hospital, with which 33 Spine Align has a collaborative partnership. Dr. Jeswani’s first mission to FOCOS, where he assisted people with deformities and led minimally-invasive surgeries on 11 patients, convinced him that it wouldn’t be his last. He continues his humanitarian work with the hospital today.

“I decided to become a partner surgeon at FOCOS because it allows me to provide care to these patients who otherwise would have no access to this chance to change their lives,” says Dr. Jeswani. “It also allows me the opportunity to bring some advanced surgical techniques to FOCOS and to learn from their talented surgeons as well.”

Collaboration changes lives

At FOCOS Hospital, doctors from the U.S. see patients with some of the most extreme musculoskeletal cases they’ve ever witnessed. These cases, however, are very commonplace in Africa due to factors such as malnutrition and lack of preventive care. Many of the patients are children with deformities they were born with or whose conditions have progressed over time, some to the point where they can’t raise their head or stand straight.

The role of doctors like Dr. Jeswani, who volunteer their time and talent, is to work alongside the surgeons of FOCOS Hospital, offering their expertise while also learning about the conditions so often seen in Africa. The collaboration also means experts travel not only to Ghana but also from Ghana.

Dr Sunil Jeswani at FOCOS Hospital in Africa

Dr. Jeswani works alongside surgeons of FOCOS Hospital, offering his expertise while learning about the cases and conditions often seen in Africa.

One of the surgeons at FOCOS recently came to San Diego to present a complex spinal deformity surgery with Dr. Jeswani at a national conference. Dr. Jeswani says he hopes to bring more of these collaborative efforts to San Diego and Sharp after the Sharp Grossmont Hospital for Neuroscience opens in 2025.

“Sharp HealthCare is dedicating a lot of their resources to building a destination neuroscience center,” says Dr. Jeswani. “This is a very exciting time for me to be involved with Sharp, and I believe that collaboration with surgeons abroad like those at FOCOS hospital will make our neuroscience center that much stronger.”

Among the skills surgeons like Dr. Jeswani offer FOCOS are techniques used in minimally invasive spine surgery. Specifically, he has helped perform a procedure called a lateral lumbar interbody fusion, in which the surgical team performed a spinal fusion through a small incision on the patient’s side.

In this procedure, the spine isn’t directly exposed, resulting in less pain after the fusion, less blood loss and faster recovery time. Dr. Jeswani says the patients who had this procedure have done very well, and the results highlighted the importance of volunteering his time.

“After treating some of these patients, who were otherwise living with a sense of hopelessness, we see how we’ve radically changed their life and ability to function,” says Dr. Jeswani. “For me, as a surgeon, it’s an unparalleled experience.”

Watch the video to learn more about Dr. Jeswani and the important work he does abroad.

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