Operate on America: 9 frequently asked questions about our mission

February 24, 2014 / by / 24 Comments

America is in the midst of a health care crisis.  Over 40 million Americans lack health insurance.  Many of those who have insurance do not receive adequate care, remaining victims of a broken healthcare system.

While daunting, we believe that this is a problem we can address.  We believe in getting our young people involved in addressing this “medchievement gap,” as we like to call it.  The most effective way to close this gap is our program, Operate On America. Operate On America (OOA) is a simple idea.  We take high-acheiving college graduates with a passion to make a difference and place them in a two-year surgical residency in a high-need area (that means poor people) somewhere in the US.  These young people perform tonsillectomies, biopsies, liver transplants, and countless other operations on those most in need of medical help.

While this may seem like a heavy responsibility to place on 22-year-olds with no pertinent experience, there is no need to worry!  We provide OOA corps members with all the training and expertise they need to perform surgery.  This starts with a 6-week training course called Summer Institute.  It also largely ends with it. During Summer Institute we provide corps members with the leadership techniques they will need to command their OR.  If we have time at the end, we also include a little info on anatomy.  By the end of our training, corps members will have the tools to help people recover from life-altering conditions, including their own white guilt.

Over their two years in the program, OOA corps members acquire leadership and decision-making skills that will serve them well in whatever path they choose after their time with us ends.  They learn to make tough decisions under time pressure when things go wrong on the operating table.  They build confidence to take on challenges they aren’t remotely prepared for.  They learn how to maintain their composure in harrowing situations, like, for instance, a morbidity and mortality conference or a deposition in a malpractice suit.  All of these skills will serve them well in whatever path they follow after their time in OOA.

Frequently Asked Questions about OOA
1. Who do we recruit for OOA?
We recruit recent graduates from colleges and universities across the country who have demonstrated leadership, commitment, perseverance, and critical thinking skills, because we believe that’s all that’s really necessary to step into a difficult, skill-based profession like medicine.  While many of our corps members have not previously expressed a serious interest in a medical career, most have some experience in health care, like tending to a ski injury or holding their sorority sister’s hair while she vomits.

2. How long do they stay in medicine?
OOA corps members commit to spend two years as surgeons in high-need medical communities.  After that, many continue to serve the medical profession in some capacity.  If you don’t include those that flee the country for legal reasons, over 90% of corps members serve in roles such as doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical salespersons, hand sanitzer dispenser refillers, mob doctors, and adhesive bandage technicians.

3. Are corps members diverse?
As I’m sure you can tell from our website, our corps contains a number of photogenic people of color.  That number happens to be 12.  Other than these very attractive and diverse corps members, OOA is made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, with ancestors from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany, France, Denmark, and even a few Italians!

4. Is our training and support model effective?
Our training and support model is super effective.  In addition to our Summer Institute, we offer workshops throughout the program on a variety of topics, including new surgery techniques, comforting grieving family members, and coming up with a convincing reason for why a patient’s death is someone else’s fault.  In addition, corps members have 1:1 mentoring throughout their time with us.  Sometimes those mentors are even real doctors!

5. Who funds us?
There are a number of people committed to fixing our health care system who believe in our program.  There are also a number of people committed to ensuring that every aspect of society, including the health and well-being of their fellow human beings, is subject to the whims of a market system, and who would be happy to see any public concern for those most in need of health care be made to go away at as low a cost as possible, and in fact would happily fund misguided do-gooders if they can profit off of their ineffective efforts .  While we can’t reveal how much of our donor base is made up of each group, at least one of them donates generously.

6. Do our corps members take jobs from experienced doctors?
…pass?7. Seriously, do our corps members take jobs from experienced doctors?
We’ve been informed by our lawyers that we have to answer this question.  Our surgical corps members apply for open positions in high-need communities based on non-binding agreements we have made with hospitals. In all places, hospital officials decide who to hire. In cases where hospitals are reducing positions, no one replaces veteran doctors; the jobs are eliminated.  In some cases, hospitals may or may not lay off several experienced, well-compensated surgeons right before creating brand-new, unrelated surgical positions that our corps members fill at a fraction of the price.

8. How do we spend our money?
Hooboy, really putting us on the spot here.  Ummm….hmmmm.  How to put this.  Sometimes we encounter political leaders in communities who are less than enthused about our corps members treating their constituents.  Occasionally, we use our funds to support political candidates who support our methods of fixing the health care crisis to ensure that we can have as widespread an effect as possible.  That’s not too bad, right? Plus we buy everyone a t-shirt.  Who doesn’t like a free t-shirt?

9. Do corps members do more harm than good?
Of course not!  Our training ensures that members are providing the best care that our underprivileged patients are likely to get, and our work to spread our model far and wide ensures that people across the country get to experience the effects of our work.  Most importantly, every OOA corps member takes the Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm.  After all, if someone truly does not intend to cause harm, how could that possibly hurt anyone?