Advocates for World Health recovers surplus medical products and distributes them to agencies working abroad.
Like many social outreach organizations, Advocates for World Health stems from misfortune. While volunteering at a Guatemalan hospital in 2009, co-founder Ryan Kania was shocked to witness a man die from wounds inflicted by a gunshot. Although the man was surrounded by competent doctors, they lacked the proper medical equipment and were unable to save his life. His family waited nearby, anxious for any news. Unfortunately, there was only tragic news to give. Within a few heartbreaking moments, the man’s relatives lost not only a beloved member of their family, but also a valuable provider.
Ryan, humbled by the magnitude of their loss, left the hospital to discuss his experiences with friend and fellow volunteer, co-founder David Roebuck. While reflecting upon their stay in Guatemala, Ryan recognized the lack of medical supplies in hospitals as a major contributor to suffering and preventable deaths. He acknowledged this fact as his opportunity to effect great change in the international health care system and left for the United States determined to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Thus, the seeds of Advocates for World Health were sown; and, through the dedication of friends, colleagues, and volunteers, the organization was allowed to come to fruition. Because David’s father is a board member at Oak Hill Hospital, David was afforded unique access into the American medical system. He noticed that, in contrast to what Ryan witnessed in Guatemala, inefficiency and product returns resulted in incredible amounts of valuable medical supplies being stored away and left to expire. The unused medical supplies would then be discarded in landfills, contributing to serious environmental issues. Oak Hill Hospital mitigated this wasteful cycle by organizing occasional pick-ups of hospital beds, but despite their efforts to reduce their environmental impact, several thousand pounds of medical materials still went to waste.
Motivated by his background in economics, Ryan decided to establish an organization to efficiently solve several complex issues at once: an organization that would redistribute surplus medical supplies to under-served hospitals in the developing world, consequently reducing the amount of medical supplies entering the waste stream. He incorporated Advocates for World Health through the state and filed for 501(c)(3) status. Around this time, Ryan befriended co-founder Jordan Markel, who was impressed by the idea and shared Ryan’s commitment for improving global health care delivery. Jordan’s subsequent trip to Guatemala cemented their partnership, which is founded on mutual trust and each partner’s complementary areas of expertise. As a medical student, Jordan had been thoroughly involved in research at Shriners Hospital and had built relationships with both doctors and hospital administrators. While working at Shriners, Jordan became acquainted with Don Eisenbron who manages the materials the hospital uses and stores. Impressed by Ryan and Jordan’s entrepreneurial spirit and humanitarian approach, Don Eisenbron offered Advocates for World Health 100 cans of Pediasure.
Inspired by their early success, Jordan and Ryan sought to develop their idea further. After many late nights brainstorming an efficient model to solve the problem of inadequate healthcare, together they co-authored a thesis for the University of South Florida’s Honors College titled “An Approach to Mitigating Excess Medical Waste”. This served as an early business model for Advocates for World Health, which expanded the group’s efforts to redistribute medical supplies internationally and encourage sustainable practices in the medical community.