SAN FRANCISCO — Richard W. Furman, MD, FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Boone, was recently recognized for his efforts in providing surgical care to the medically underserved by being named the recipient of the 2019 American College of Surgeons (ACS)/Pfizer International Surgical Volunteerism Award.
Furman received the award for his long career of providing medical care to underserved patients around the world and for cofounding World Medical Mission. He was one of five humanitarian and volunteerism award recipients honored at the 2019 ACS Clinical Congress in San Francisco, Calif., on Oct. 30. The ACS/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarian and Volunteerism Awards are given “in recognition of those surgeons who have dedicated a substantial portion of their career to ensuring the provision of surgical care to underserved populations without expectation of commensurate reimbursement.”
After beginning his medical missionary work with a trip to India in 1977 to teach pacemaker insertion to local medical workers, that same year Furman and his brother, Lowell B. Furman, MD, FACS, a 2003 recipient of the ACS Surgical Volunteerism Award, worked with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief to create WMM and fill a global medical need for short-term, volunteer assignments in low-income settings.
WMM volunteers now serve in 45 overseas hospitals, with more facilities in the process of receiving or requesting support. Furman has operated in many of these hospitals. Throughout his time with the WMM, Furman has been active in visiting areas that require surgical or medical attention as the result of a natural disaster or war, including Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Nepal, Ecuador and Iraq.
Furman has been a long-time advocate for sending U.S. medical aid to countries that need it most. He regularly traveled to Africa with former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, MD, FACS (R-TN), to hospitals in low-income countries to assess their needs, which eventually led President George W. Bush to implement a program to provide more than $15 billion in aid to 15 countries. Beyond this indirect influence, Furman has helped to secure medical resources for WMM’s physicians and hospitals; in the last decade, the organization has sent more than 585 20-foot containers of equipment and supplies, valued in excess of $46 million, to these locations.