“All in all the time,” is how Senior Program Director, Kate Corbett, describes WPP volunteer surgeon, Dr. Steve Hwang. This phrase typically creates an image of a positive and likely high energy individual which aptly describes Dr. Hwang. For him, though, the words also reveal a dynamic leader who desires to use his expertise and abilities to heal as many children as he can.
“He cares so much and always wants to know what else he can do to help,” explains Kate. Upon first becoming involved with World Pediatric Project last year to treat a child with severe scoliosis further complicated by sickle cell anemia, Dr. Hwang kept asking the questions, "Can we do more?” and “Any more opportunities to help?”
Dr. Steve Hwang with WPP patient Ali during the May Scoliosis mission to Saint Vincent.
An opportunity to “do more” was presented this past May when Dr. Hwang led his first WPP surgery mission to Kingstown, Saint Vincent for a week of surgeries to help children and young adults in the Eastern Caribbean region suffering from severe curvature of the spine, otherwise known as scoliosis. It was an extremely busy week, yet Dr. Hwang continued to ask, “Can we add in another case?” “What if we start earlier so another child can be helped?”
While this was Dr. Hwang’s first trip with World Pediatric Project, it is not his first international quest as a surgeon. He recalls having the opportunity toward the end of medical school to work alongside a U.S. orthopedic surgeon visiting Cambodia. Several years later when he finished his orthopedic residency, he returned to the country after attending another meeting in Malaysia. “This refueled my interest to serve,” Dr. Hwang recalls.
WPP’s June Scoliosis team in Saint Vincent.
Today, Dr. Hwang is a highly respected neurosurgeon, yet he didn’t always know he wanted to go into medicine. “Even though my dad is a radiologist, it wasn’t until my undergrad years when I was involved with research and my mentor happened to be an M.D., that a career in medicine truly piqued my interest,” recalls Dr. Hwang. He currently divides his time between two hospitals, specializing in spinal deformity at Shriners Hospital for Children - Philadelphia and practicing pediatric neurosurgery at St. Christopher's Children's Hospital.
When asked about his experience with World Pediatric Project missions, Dr. Hwang singles out WPP’s commitment to ongoing care. “All medical missions are similar in that they help a patient population who otherwise would not receive care. But the difference with WPP is the commitment to coordinating post-mission care. I am confident of the oversight needed for these patients after our team leaves.”
While his relationship with World Pediatric Project is relatively new, Dr. Hwang has made his extended commitment clear. “The focus of WPP, their goals and vision are unparalleled. To not only provide care but also to have the vision to provide continuity of care and train local physicians to do more independently is unique. I believe this approach epitomizes what surgical mission outreach should be. Transitioning care to the local healthcare professionals allows WPP to move on and help another site until healthcare across the globe is improved.”
Dr. Steve Hwang will lead a World Pediatric Project scoliosis team to Barbados this December where they expect to perform 9 surgeries over five days.