Doctor partners with other health care providers to get medical supplies to those in need around wor
Dr. Rebecca Mashburn is trying to save the world one strip of adhesive tape at a time.
Mashburn, a family physician with Western Colorado Physicians Group and Primary Care Partners, collects and donates new and overstocked medical supplies to poor countries around the world through the organization Project CURE.
Project CURE stands for Commission on Urgent Relief & Equipment and is headquartered in Denver.
St. Mary’s Hospital, Community Hospital, Family Health West and Primary Care Partners have provided supplies or equipment to Mashburn’s local branch of Project CURE, she said.
The supplies Mashburn collects are items American hospitals and clinics normally would discard but are items hospitals in third-world countries need to provide basic health care, Mashburn said.
For example, X-rays in Grand Junction are digital because of advancements in technology, rendering X-ray film and light boxes to view X-rays obsolete. Third-world countries can use old X-ray equipment and supplies. Instead of throwing the equipment away, hospitals donate it to Project Cure, said Gretchen Gore, mission integration coordinator at St. Mary’s and Mashburn’s primary liaison at the hospital.
Other examples of items local hospitals donate to Project CURE are expired adhesive tape or sutures. Expired adhesive tape and sutures aren’t necessarily unusable. They just can’t be used in American hospitals because of regulations, Gore said.
“We know it’s good, but we can’t use it,“ Gore said. “That’s why Project CURE is so awesome.”
Used items are not shipped overseas.
The local chapter of Project CURE was formed in 2008, but Mashburn said it is only within the past several months that efforts have increased to boost shipments from Grand Junction.
Her interest in helping international countries stems from living and working in Nepal from 1995 to 2000. Mashburn first heard about Project CURE in 2007 after her second trip to the Asian country.
Mashburn was a physician at a Nepalese hospital so remote it took four days to get to the nearest real road. The village, called Okhaldhunga, was 50 miles from Mount Everest.
“I re-realized how short on operations they are,” Mashburn said. “You use gloves there until your fingers are poking through. You wash syringes because there are no supplies.”
When a boy with tetanus came to see Mashburn, all she could do was make him more comfortable because she couldn’t save his life. There is limited access to vaccinations and the boy never received a tetanus shot.
“Talk about heartbreaking,” she said.
Mashburn returned to America with a sense of guilt because she knew some medical items discarded here don’t need to end up in a landfill.
“With Project CURE, unused items are saved instead of wasted,” Mashburn said.
Common items to donate to Project Cure are called “consumables,” such as needles, catheters, surgical instruments or syringes. Equipment that can be donated includes wheelchairs, crutches and hospital beds.
In rural Nepal, hospitals beds are wooden planks that are difficult to sanitize.
All items donated locally to Project CURE are stored in a locked warehouse until they can be sorted and shipped to Denver.
Konrad Krauland with the GJ Tech Center LLC donated the warehouse space.
“The fact a local businessman donated space is huge,” Mashburn said. “We want community support.”
Wal-Mart ships all Project CURE supplies from Grand Junction to Denver for free. From Denver, approximately $250,000 worth of medical supplies can be shipped around the world for $10,000.
The local branch of Project CURE receives four full garbage bags of supplies daily from St. Mary’s. Last year, Community donated $10,000 to the organization on behalf of its physicians.
Project CURE’s local chapter ships supplies to Denver every three months. The goal is to have a monthly shipment of donated supplies and equipment.
“We have a finite amount of resources, and we are using them like there is no tomorrow,” Mashburn said. “I’ve always been passionate about saving the world environmentally, and I care about people, too.”