Penn State Hershey’s Dr. Jack Myers is all heart in Ecuador

When Ryan Mathis was a student at Hershey High School, he traveled to Guayaquil, Ecuador, with Penn State Hershey pediatric heart surgeon Dr. John “Jack” Myers. There, he saw parents canoe or carry their children across bodies of water to arrive at a hospital where they’d wait with hundreds of others for a chance to receive life-saving heart surgery.

That experience — along with a second trip with Myers while in college — reinforced Mathis’ decision to attend medical school and gave him a new appreciation for medical advances and technology in the United States.

Now a plastic surgery resident at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., Mathis hopes to form a career where he can take a month each year to share his skills with developing countries.

“You can’t even comprehend the degree of poverty there — it really puts things in perspective,” he said.

Myers and Dr. Stephen Cyran, Penn State Hershey Children’s Heart Group, first traveled to Ecuador 16 years ago, when the country had no surgical equipment or trained personnel to fix congenital heart problems in children.

The hospital they arrived at in the capital city of Guayaquil looked like a dilapidated warehouse, with corrugated steel hanging from the ceilings, bugs coming out of the water faucets and very limited resources.

“We waited for the team from Hershey to come for 15 days, hoped they would cure the biggest number of children possible while they were here, and that they would return quickly,” said Dr. David Maldonado, pediatric cardiovascular surgeon at the Hospital de Niños Roberto Gilbert E. in Guayaquil.

Read more in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated March 12, 2015