Dr. Bitner has been part of a Utah based humanitarian organization called Utah Medical Outreach (UMO) since 2007. The organization has been traveling to Mexico and now Guatemala for over 20 years. UMO’s main goal is to provide surgical services to the native population in impoverished regions of these Central American countries. On a biannual basis, members of the organization travel to Guatemala for a one week trip. While there, many different types of surgeries are performed including cleft lip and palate repair, removal of head and neck tumors, ear surgery, head and neck cancer operations, nasal surgery, hernia repair, correction of uterine prolapse and many, many more. This work is beneficial to those who receive care as these services are otherwise inaccessible to many of the people of these countries. However, the work is of great satisfaction to those who are able to go and care for the wonderful people in the area.
In explaining why Dr. Bitner goes on these medical missions he states, “I remember walking along the streets of Brazil as a missionary in remote and impoverished areas of the Amazon Basin. You would see teenagers with large clefts in their lips that had not been repaired. These poor people were outcasts from society and unaccepted by those around them. When they had clefts in their palates their speech is severely impaired and they are almost incomprehensible. I remember making goals then and there to some day return to help out.
As I was going to medical school, it came time to choose a specialty. I felt that by selecting ENT and then doing a facial plastic fellowship, I would be properly trained to return to these poor counties and share my skills, especially when it came to cleft lip and palate repair. I am now realizing this goal and feel so lucky to have acquired skills that are useful and that I can share with others in need.”
Doctors from many specialities have participated in UMO sponsored medical trips including: ENT, Facial Plastic Surgery, OB/Gyn, Ophthalmology, General Surgery and more. There is always one or more Anesthesiologist who participates. Additionally, nurses, surgical technicians, medical assistants and non-medical people attend the trip. All participants travel at their own expense and use vacation time to go.
If you would like further information about Utah Medical Outreach or would like to make a donation, please contact Dr. Bitner through his contact page. Utah Medical Outreach is a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. All organizers of UMO are volunteers, there are no paid employees. As such, 100% of donations are used directly for patient care (i.e. purchasing of medications, surgical supplies and disposables, etc…)