Technology that saves children's lives

Teleconferencing paired with medical diagnostic equipment helps save children's lives worldwide

Frank Brady expects to celebrate a significant milestone in June: His Medical Missions for Children charity will treat its 30,000th child that month.

That's an impressive record for the nine-year-old nonprofit organization, which connects leading US doctors with doctors and their pediatric patients all over the world.

MMC uses telecommunications technology and other IT tools to bridge gaps in knowledge, treatment and geography. The organization has created what it calls the Global Telemedicine & Teaching Network to enable US-based doctors to consult with foreign pediatric physicians through a distance-medicine network called the Telemedicine Outreach Program so they can help diagnose and treat children worldwide. Technology also has allowed MMC to expand its services to include educational content for health care providers and patients in multiple countries.

"MMC fulfills a host of health- related needs throughout the world," says Alberto Salamanca, the Mexico-based president of MMC's Latin America region. "Technology has proven to be the most important tool to carry the mission and vision of MMC."

In some ways, Brady, 65, has spent his whole life readying himself for this mission. After he contracted spinal meningitis as a 1-year-old, the doctors told his parents that their son had only three weeks to live. But a week later, they suggested trying penicillin -- at the time, an experimental drug that hadn't been tested on pediatric patients.

The treatment worked, convincing Brady's mother that the boy was spared so he could do something special with his life. Brady's path thereafter wasn't unusual. He spent most of his 35-year career working in international business.

But he didn't forget his mother's words.

"After raising a family and retiring [in 1997], those words that my mother said over and over again forced me to look for something special," Brady says, explaining that he and his wife, Peg, wanted to help families facing medical crises similar to his own.

MMC does just that. It allows participating hospitals in developing countries to contact medical specialists from US hospitals to help diagnose and treat severely ill children. The consultation is done through teleconferencing, obviating the time and expense of travel.

At a Glance
  • Medical Missions for Children is a nonprofit organization that uses technology to disseminate medical care and knowledge from the US to medically underserved locales around the world. Its annual budget is US$15 million, 90 per cent of which goes to technology costs.

  • Project champions include MMC co-founders Frank and Peg Brady, and President and COO John Riehl.

  • The organization has 18 full-time workers, with 10 in technology-related positions.

  • MMC has saved thousands of children's lives while also spreading medical knowledge around the world, thereby allowing local doctors to use their new skills to more effectively treat other patients.

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Mary K. Pratt

Mary K. Pratt

Computerworld
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