"Every year a million children are born with congenital heart defects," Surgeons of Hope Executive Director Victoria Flamant told us at Jean Shafiroff
's kick-off cocktail party for their gala. Rheumatic fever damages the hearts of several million more. Surgery alone saves them. But for many Latin American countries, that resource was not available until Surgeons of Hope stepped in. They send doctors, create hospitals and set up training programs to operate on young children with heart disease.
Jean will chair their October 15 gala at the Essex House. It will honor Surgeons of Hope's Heart Ambassador, actor and star of Narcos
and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
, Diego Luna, and Maurice Lévy, Chairman of Publicis Groupe, in addition philanthropist and author, Jean Shafiroff.
Judith O'Neill, SoH Vice President, board members David Chitayat and Robert Pine, His Excellency Jaime Hermida Castillo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations, Consular General Juan René Icaza of Nicaragua, and Consular General Rolando Madrigal of Costa Rica were joined by guests including Flo Anthony, Edgar Batista, Tony Bechara
, Geoffrey Bradfield
, Victor dE Souza
, Lucia Hwong Gordon
, Jack Hartnett, Roy Kean
, Alexander & Alexandra Posse, Matt Rich, Gilda Sacasa, Randi Schatz
and Elizabeth Shafiroff.
Jean was inspired to help when she toured the hospital center they built in Managua, Nicaragua a couple of years ago. "I was very impressed to see this work and these children who would not be alive if it weren't for the Surgeons of Hope," Jean told the room. "Who do they send down? They send the top, top, top heart surgeons from Columbia Presbyterian among other places. The idea is to train the people in the countries they go to. They have very little overhead and they save lives."
"Thanks to the work of Surgeons of Hope, the Spanish government gave a $5 million loan to Nicaragua to build a heart center for the children," she added. "Spain, then, excused that loan."
"There really is no alternative," Judith O'Neill told the room. "The board and the medical teams come from Spain, France, Belgium, Columbia and the largest hospitals here, and we're hoping in the near future, from Costa Rica as they increase their levels of operating skills."
"We work exclusively with public hospitals in countries such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Paraguay and are hoping to expand to Panama," Flamant told Hamptons.com. "The missions also focus on training and cultivating local skills and knowledge. We're also putting together a fellowship program to bring some of these bright young local cardiologists to do extensive training in Madrid with our partners there. They learn new techniques to operate on children in a less invasive way. The third arm of what we do is constructing centers of care. We're very proud of the center we've constructed in Nicaragua. It was opened in 2013 and it is the only pediatric heart center in the country. Prior to this, poor families who could not afford to fly their children to neighboring countries, would often lose their child."
For more information on Surgeons of Hope, visit surgeonsofhope.org.