American College of Surgeons presents UK Surgery alum International Surgical Volunteerism Award

American College of Surgeons Press Release

An alumnus of the University of Kentucky General Surgery and Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency programs was honored by the American College of Surgeons with the International Surgical Volunteerism Award at the 2019 Clinical Congress in San Francisco.

Richard W. Furman, MD, FACS, a retired thoracic and vascular surgeon from Boone, N.C., received the International Surgical Volunteerism Award for his long career of providing medical care to underserved patients around the world and for cofounding World Medical Mission (WMM).

Dr. Furman began his medical missionary work with a trip to India in 1977 to teach pacemaker insertion to local medical workers. That same year, Dr. Furman and his brother, Lowell B. Furman, MD, FACS, a 2003 recipient of the ACS Surgical Volunteerism Award, worked with Samaritan's Purse International Relief to create WMM and fill a global medical need for short-term, volunteer assignments in low-income settings. In its second year, WMM sent seven physicians to areas of need; in its third, it sent 18. More than 40 years later, WMM sends approximately 600 volunteer medical professionals annually to underserved areas and recently sent its 10,000th volunteer.

Throughout his time with the WMM, Dr. Furman has been active in visiting areas that require surgical or medical attention as the result of a natural disaster or war. During the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia (also known as Blackhawk Down), he set up emergency care for wounds. He and other surgeons traveled to Kigali, Rwanda one month after the Rwandan genocide because an entire hospital had been routed. He provided surgical care after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, 2015 Nepal earthquake, and 2016 Ecuador earthquake. He operated in an emergency field hospital outside of Mosul, Iraq, in 2017, treating both enemy combatants and Iraqi citizens.

Dr. Furman has been a long-time advocate for sending U.S. medical aid to countries that need it most. He regularly traveled to Africa with former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, MD, FACS (R-TN), to hospitals in low-income countries to assess their needs, which eventually led President George W. Bush to implement a program to provide more than $15 billion in aid to 15 countries.

Beyond this indirect influence, Dr. Furman has helped to secure medical resources for WMM's physicians and hospitals; in the last decade, the organization has sent more than 585 20-foot containers of equipment and supplies, valued in excess of $46 million, to these locations.

Dr. Furman is author of six books on basic healthcare, such as Prescription for Life. Proceeds from the sale of these books go toward the support of WMM.

Dr. Furman was one of five surgeons who received the 2019 American College of Surgeons (ACS)/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian Awards and Surgical Volunteerism Awards in “recognition of their selfless efforts as volunteer surgeons who provide care to medically underserved patients.”

Other honorees were:

  • Donald R. Meier, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from El Paso, Texas – Surgical Humanitarian Award for his decades of surgical training and education service around the world, primarily in West Africa.
  • Devendra S. Saksena, MBBS, FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Mumbai, India – Surgical Humanitarian Award for his nearly 50 years of service in establishing cardiothoracic surgery services in India and throughout remote areas of Africa.
  • Steven Bolton, MD, FACS, a general surgeon in Pontiac, Mich., will receive the Domestic Surgical Volunteerism Award for his efforts over nearly three decades to initiate and operate a medical clinic for underserved residents in Pontiac, Mich.
  • Alison Smith, MD, a general surgery resident at Tulane University, New Orleans, La., will receive the Resident Volunteerism Award for the dedication she has shown in her early career to provide medical service to the people of Haiti.