Friday, August 19, 2011

Honoree Profile: Ralph Greco, MD

Each year, the Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti salutes a member of its community of friends who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to our cause.

This year, we are thrilled to honor Dr. Ralph Greco for his constant support and philanthropy, and thank him for his many years of friendship and service on behalf of HAS.

For almost four decades, Dr. Ralph Greco has been providing volunteer medical care and material support to the underserved Haitian community of the Artibonite at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. Dr. Greco first encountered HAS Haiti in 1970 as a third-year surgical resident at Yale. He admits, "It was initially a bit intimidating, but surgical residents in that era never admitted such things. I did fall in love with the children and liked Haitian art." To his surprise, Yale again sent him back to HAS in 1971, where this time, "it was an exhilarating experience." He operated on "great cases" and felt "a tremendous sense of accomplishment." From then on, he was "hooked -- infected with the 'Haiti virus.'"

After completing his training at Yale, he continued to visit Haiti and HAS. In the 1990's, as Director of the Surgical Residency Program at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, he began a rotation at HAS for his own surgical residents. In 2000, he left for Stanford and again implemented a residency program for medical residents there. In each environment he was thrilled by the results, as was HAS. He says, "To my great satisfaction, they loved it for the same reasons I had many years before ... For young surgeons, being able to make a diagnosis with just your eyes and hands, and cure someone with an operation, without which, the patient would likely die, is the greatest possible accomplishment."

In 2000, Dr. Greco was recruited to the Stanford University School of Medicine as the Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Professor, Chief of the Division of General Surgery and Director of the Stanford General Surgery Residency Program.

Several years ago, Dr. Greco helped to organize the Haiti week at Stanford, which attracted a number of luminaries from the worlds of medicine and liberal arts for a week-long seminar in Haitian Culture, art, and medical practice, and included a Friends' art auction in his home. More recently, the Palo Alto Art Center displayed his personal Haitian art collection, which once again drew attention to Haiti and HAS.

After the January 2010 earthquake, Dr. Greco was instrumental in raising over $350,000 from the Stanford University community for Hôpital Albert Schweitzer for medical care and disaster relief. Since then, he continues to be involved with HAS in his role as advisor to medical students and residents on opportunities and goals in international healthcare. Greco writes of this time, "Being able to mobilize the Stanford community to help HAS in the aftermath of the earthquake was my way of giving back for the so many things HAS has given me."

A leader in many disciplines, including the arts as well as medicine, Ralph has inspired several generations of surgeons to pursue excellence in clinical care and to consider the needs of the less fortunate of this world. "Haiti," he says, "is a part of my life and always will be." Indeed, Haiti, and Hôpital Albert Schweitzer is by far richer in spirit because of Dr. Ralph Greco’s dedication and service.

Dr. Greco and his wife, Dr. Irene Wapnir, live on the Stanford campus with their daughter Ilana, 17 and are frequently visited by their sons, Eric, 19 and Justin, 22, both college students. Irene is a Breast Cancer Surgeon and visited Hôpital Albert Schweitzer with Ralph in 1996. A native of Argentina, Irene loves hiking and tango. Ralph continues to sculpt in stone and wood and has recently taken up ceramics.

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