The Last Surgery

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Two longtime Kaiser Permanente volunteers, Janet Cuscheiri, RN, and John Ngai, MD, retire after helping hundreds of needy people regain their health and wellness through free surgeries.

For 25 years now, Operation Access has provided thousands of Bay Area uninsured people with life-changing free surgeries: hernia operations that enable them to return to work; cataract removals that let them see.

Physicians and employees at 17 Kaiser Permanente hospitals run Operation Access surgery days, in sessions supported by Community Benefit.

At Kaiser Permanente Redwood City, John Ngai, MD, and Janet Cuschieri, RN, are leadership champions who earlier this month provided their last free surgeries. The 2 are retiring — although they leave a legacy.

“Dr. Ngai is one of our VIP volunteers, who’s seen over 200 patients,” said Ali Balick, program director of Operation Access. “Janet Cuschieri is a leading Operating Room nurse who makes sure our sessions here at Redwood City are well-equipped, orderly, and run smoothly.”

Douglas Grey, MD, who is now retired, co-founded Operation Access in 1993 after noticing that the Kaiser Permanente operating rooms were unused on Saturdays. He saw a perfect opportunity to encourage medical volunteerism while helping to solve the unmet health needs of thousands of Bay Area people.

Since then, Kaiser Permanente Bay Area medical centers have partnered with Operation Access, and hundreds of Kaiser Peramentne surgery staff have regularly volunteered to perform ambulatory operations for the uninsured.

“I started volunteering for Operation Access events at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco in 2003,” said Cuschieri. “And it always makes me happy to see people smiling as they leave these sessions and start living their lives again.”

On Feb. 10, before their final surgeries began, Cuschieri and Dr. Ngai were presented with certificates of recognition from Redwood City by Vice Mayor Diane Howard, a nurse.

“I feel like we’re all brothers and sisters here in this world,” Dr. Ngai said, “and those like us here with advantages should try to help those who are less advantaged.”

 

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