In 2017, Dr. Jaymie Henry tasked a group of international surgeons, nonprofit leaders, and startup founders to bring her ambitious dream to life: bring simple surgeries to the masses with a scalable solution. The group spent the weekend on top of Summit Powder Mountain for one of the inaugural Summit Institute lab events, which is more a roll-up-the-sleeves workshop than a panel discussion.
For Dr. Henry, who was born in the Philippines and graduated med school in Manila, the problem hits close to home. More than 2/3 of the global population has no access to even the simplest life-altering surgeries like cataracts, cleft palate, hernia, club foot, and fistula. These brutal conditions are called neglected surgical diseases, or NSD’s.
The Summit Institute is the philanthropic arm of new Summit Powder Mountain community, which crowd-sourced the purchase of the Utah resort back in 2013. Beyond saving Powder Mountain from the perils of corporate development, the pitch for rallying the Summit community to purchase the hidden gem resort was to create a year-round gathering place for this idea-driven crowd to gather, play, convene, and collectively come up with some solutions to global problems. It’s the loftiest intention of their intentional community.
The Summit Institute was formed to do just that, and in the three years since their first set of lab events, Dr. Henry has become their poster child for its potential. Her impact has been highlighted by the likes of Newsweek and Forbes.
Next month, Henry will be putting the finishing touches on a pilot program in Meru County, Kenya, where she and her team of partners are working on clearing out the backlog of NSD cases.
The program has been so successful the Governor of Meru County welcomed her arrival with a parade last summer. Henry’s plan is to replace stop-gap solutions in underdeveloped countries with sustainable efforts. It involves training local officials and volunteers on how to identify and track new cases as well as train local surgeons, so care can be sustained even after Henry and her army of partners clearing the backlog of cases leave town. Jaymie’s husband, Orion Henry, spearheaded the development of the tracking app that was deployed throughout the region.
“Simple tools that allow for data collection can be incredibly enabling for governments and surgical stakeholders to create local solutions,” says Henry. By bringing together like-minded agencies and finding synergies she’s helping them solve problems through systems thinking and approaches. “We find huge efficiencies when we’re all working together.”
“It’s really about scale,” says Henry, who’s accomplishing all this during breaks from her surgical residency at Florida Atlantic University. “What we’re learning in Meru will apply to the rest of Kenya, and other countries are already lining up.” The idea to “tip a country” was one of the first ones set during the “Lab” event at Powder. By demonstrating a proof of concept, others would surely jump on board.
In February, fresh off her last visit to Kenya, she was in Utah again, at another Powder Mountain community gathering, this one was focused on the importance of regenerative farming and quality food sources.
Though she wasn’t on the speaking schedule, Dr. Henry was asked by Kathy Roth-Douquet to speak at a large dinner gathering for neighbors and guests. As co-director of the Summit Institute, Roth toasted Dr. Henry’s accomplishments and introduced her to many of her newest neighbors. After the applause, Henry expressed her gratitude to the Summit community and shared some uplifting anecdotes from the hundreds of surgeries and thousands of screenings they’ve completed.
Dr. Henry’s hope now is that the Summit community will utilize their influence to raise the profile of NSDs through their own channels. She’s also asking those with government contacts to lobby Mark Green at USAID for support of NSD projects.
As heads nodded during her plea, the inspiration filling the room was palpable. Dr. Henry’s mission is just getting started, and this mountain community is cleary capable of big things.