Wasted No More

By John F. Lauerman / May / June 2000
October 19th, 2007
Every day, thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies are unwrapped and thrown away without ever being used. Kits for specific procedures, for example, often include sterile materials that may never be needed. Thanks to two Brown medical students, this medical paraphernalia is finding a second life.

The group, which is called Remedy, last year shipped about $100,000 worth of such excess supplies to relief organizations in the developing world. Remedy, which was founded two years ago by medical students Melissa Gill ’96 and Lawrence Siegel, gathers such things as rubber gloves, gauze, crutches, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and dialysis machines. The supplies are collected from Providence’s Miriam Hospital and from private medical offices throughout the city, then distributed in such places as the Philippines, Central America, Africa, and eastern Europe.

The program, which was the brainchild of Assistant Professor of Medicine Rochelle Strenger, costs almost nothing to run, says Gill. Volunteers sort and package the donated materials, which are considered a tax-deductible charitable donation, and doctors heading overseas on humanitarian missions serve as couriers. Although some of the supplies are considered unusable here, hospitals in developing countries often resterilize them and put them to good use. Gill and Siegel also offer physicians guidance in negotiating the import laws of target countries. "We want to make sure they know how to get clearance through our customs and into the receiving country," Gill says. "The last thing we want is for something to be confiscated and sold on the black market."

Gill and Siegel are now trying to increase the number of hospitals and doctors donating unused supplies. "We’re very proud of the direction we’ve taken the program in," Gill says, "and we’d like to see it get even bigger."

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
May / June 2000