What is the history of Heart Care International?

In 1994, Dr. Robert Michler, founded Heart Care International by bringing together a small volunteer team of health care professionals from New York City to travel to Guatemala to administer life saving pediatric surgery for 25 Guatemalan children. This experience solidified Heart Care International’s commitment to Guatemala and also highlighted the need to provide continuing education and training to local nurses and doctors. The outcome resulted in a long-term partnership between Heart Care International and the local medical community in Guatemala. The new goal was to provide, not only medical and surgical procedures for local children, but to build a self-sufficient, independent pediatric cardiac program through training and education.

After working for several years in Guatemala City, Dr. Aldo Castaneda, the Surgeon in Chief from Children’s Hospital in Boston, came to work in Guatemala. Building on Heart Care International's experience and using his local influence and international reputation, Dr. Castaneda established a permanent pediatric heart center in Guatemala City.

In 2000, following the extraordinary transition to a more permanent program in Guatemala, Heart Care International transitioned its efforts to the Dominican Republic. By partnering up with Heart Care Dominicana, a local non-profit created to benefit Dominican cardiac patients; the two organizations have saved the lives of over 250 children through catheterizations, surgeries and comprehensive cardiac evaluations. In 2007, with the support of Heart Care International, and the consortium created by The International Hospital for Children, Heart Care Dominicana successfully opened the doors of the first independent pediatric cardiac care program in the Dominican Republic.

In 2005, Heart Care International entered its third commitment in El Salvador. Using the experiences in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, Heart Care International partnered with Sana mi Corazon, an El Salvadorian non-profit; with the Benjamin Bloom National Children’s Hospital in San Salvador, the only public children’s hospital in the country and with the Diagnóstico Hospital, a private hospital with cath lab facilities. Together, the four institutions have treated more than 200 children and made great strides in the development of the pediatric cardiac program at the Bloom Hospital

In 2011, Heart Care International entered a new commitment in Peru by partnering with the Instituto Nacional de Salud del Niño (INSN). The goal is to raise the level and quality of the diagnostic and surgical care, for pediatric heart disease, offered at their hospital. This goal is achieved by conducting joint cardiac missions, conferences, lectures and workshops. Continuing education and training are a long term commitment that Heart Care International has made with all its partners. For this reason, the HCI medical team continues its work in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.

How is Heart Care International funded?

Heart Care International is a privately funded, non-sectarian, non-profit organization. Financial support from a variety of sources, including fundraising conducted by Heart Care International’s Board of Directors, its auxiliary board and other friends provides the backbone for financing the organization’s initiatives. In addition, in-kind support from major health care companies have greatly assisted in enabling the missions to continue. In 2008, Heart Care International became a member of the Independent Charities of America's Children's Medical Charities network. As such, the organization is part of the Combined Federal Campaign which is a nationwide, year long, fundraising campaign. Most recently, Heart Care International accepts contributions from donors around the world through its on-line, secure donation processing network.

What percent of funds raised are allocated to overhead?

Heart Care International has very low overhead, due in large part to the generosity of the volunteers that staff the organization, as well as the hospitality of the Second Congregation Church which provides office space. On average, HCI's low overhead has enabled the organization to operate on a child for as little as $2,500. Over the course of the past 15 years, overhead expenses have been around 5%.

How are Foreign Country Partners chosen?

Heart Care International partners with hospitals in developing countries that have the need and the interest to raise the quality of the cardiac service offered to their indigent young patients. The selected hospital should be willing to establish a long term relationship with Heart Care International lasting at least five consecutive years. During this period, joint cardiac missions will be conducted as well as conferences, lectures and workshops. Typically, Heart Care International will also seek to partner with a local non-profit organization, dedicated to the improvement of the quality of cardiac care for local children. It should be willing to act as Heart Care International’s liaison with the local medical community and administrative/government officials. Heart Care International’s goal is to not just save the lives of indigenous children today, but to leave the country with a legacy of hope and self-sufficiency for the future of its pediatric heart care.

How are local children identified?

Children in the foreign country are identified initially by local medical professionals, usually the cardiologists at HCI’s partner hospital. During the mission trip, the children are then evaluated by the Heart Care International and local “Screen Team”. Once evaluated, the team of cardiologists, surgeons and ICU members, select the children that will be having a surgery or a cath procedure during the on-going mission.

What happens to the children after Heart Care International leaves?

Children who receive evaluations, medical procedures and surgical care from Heart Care International professionals are cared for by local, trained medical professionals after the mission team returns to the United States. In addition, Heart Care International typically leaves a team of nurses and doctors on site at the host country for any length of time that children under Heart Care International’s auspices needs their assistance. During the time period between mission trips, Heart Care International’s medical professionals are in constant communication with the foreign country partner to assist as issues arise. In some instances where children need heart care that cannot be performed in the country, Heart Care International has arranged for the patient (and parent) to travel to the United States.

What medical specialties are involved in a typical Heart Care International mission trip?

Heart Care International is privileged to have volunteer support from the following medical and surgical specialties: pediatric cardiac surgery, pediatric cardiology, pediatric cardiac anesthesia, pediatric intensive care doctors and nurses, perfusion therapy, respiratory therapy, and pediatric operating room nurses.

Who can volunteer for Heart Care International mission trips?

Heart Care International welcomes pediatric medical and surgical volunteers from any country. To date, the team represents over 20 major medical institutions in over 22 states and 3 different countries. If you have an area of expertise that you would be interested in sharing with Heart Care International, please contact us at [email protected].