Medical Volunteer Profile: Dr. Gary Tye, Pediatric Neurosurgeon at VCU Medical Center

Last week we heard from Jamie, whose life was changed forever when she received surgery with IHC volunteer neurosurgeon Gary Tye at VCU Medical Center. This week, let’s meet Dr. Tye and discover his passion for healing children!

Dr. Tye has generously donated his time and expertise for more than eight years. He most recently led surgical trips to the Eastern Caribbean and has volunteered on trips to Guatemala in the past. Between these trips he treats patients brought to Richmond for neurosurgery.

 Why did you start volunteering with IHC?

IHC’s medical director, Dr. John Ward, invited me to join him on an IHC neurosurgery mission trip in 2002 and I realized I loved donating my time to help children. I’ve been volunteering for IHC ever since.

 Why did you choose a career in neurosurgery?

I originally wanted to be an orthopedist when I went to medical school but rotated through neurosurgery and loved it.

What has been your most memorable experience volunteering with IHC?

My most memorable and rewarding moment took place during my latest mission trip to St. Vincent. A 12-year-old boy, Yanick, had fallen out of a mango tree and had been confined to a bed for more than six weeks, unable to sit up. Paralysis like this cannot be cured, but I was able to improve the quality of his life through a surgical procedure. Now, he is able to sit up and use a wheelchair. The first thing he did was ask to go out in the sunlight.

What is a typical mission trip like?

A typical mission trip is a whirlwind of a week. It’s usually a long day of traveling on Saturday and the team tries to rest before the clinic the following day. On Sunday, we start early at the clinic to see children who come from islands all over the region and determine who needs surgical care. The team spends most of the week operating and takes one day at the end of the week to get ready for the trip back to Richmond.

 What do you wish other people knew about IHC?

IHC has an incredibly dedicated staff and group of volunteers. IHC’s supporters should know they truly make a difference and the more money they can donate, the more teams can travel to help children. The mission teams donate their time and skills, but IHC needs funds to coordinate the trips and to bring children who need complex surgeries to the U.S.

What is the need for critical care in IHC’s partner countries?

There is a tremendous need for medical equipment and funds for children who need critical surgical care. On my last trip to St. Vincent, the only ultrasound machine in the hospital broke, and Dr. Ty-Asha Plummer, IHC’s Eastern Caribbean Medical Director, piled our team into her car and drove us across town to find a working machine. Using the machine, we evaluated and diagnosed a child with hydrocephalus, a life-threatening condition which caused her head to be swollen with excess spinal fluid. She needed urgent surgery.

When you aren’t working or volunteering, what do you enjoy?

 When I’m not working I hang out with my kids and we enjoy camping, fishing and sports together. I’m also in a band called The Scrubbs.

 Talented physicians and nurses like Dr. Tye volunteer hundreds of hours every year to help children through International Hospital for Children. Learn more at www.healachild.org

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