Kurt A. McCammon, MD, FACS
Chairman and Program Director, Department of Urology, Eastern Virginia Medical School; Genitourinary Reconstructive Surgeon, Urology of Virginia
The motto of IVUmed, a global nonprofit working to increase access to quality urological care, is short but powerful – “Teach One, Reach Many.”
Over 25 years, the organization has served nearly 12,000 adults and children in low-resource areas of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, with 8,050-plus surgeries completed. The medical and surgical care provided by IVUmed in 40 different countries is valued at close to $62 million.
Of equal importance, IVU’s volunteer physicians and nurses have trained thousands of their foreign counterparts to fill critical gaps in reconstructive, female and pediatric urology; urologic oncology; and endourology services on a more permanent basis.
Many patients are young women with obstetric fistulae and men with urethral strictures. Proper treatment can help end years of pain, shame, unemployment, social ostracism and sometimes suicidal depression, offering a chance at a healthy, productive future.
“My first trip completely changed my life,” says Dr. Kurt McCammon, a Norfolk-based genitourinary reconstructive surgeon who has volunteered for 15 years. “These often are people who have been thrown out of their villages and are surviving in extreme poverty, and we can bring their hope back.”
A member of IVU’s Board of Directors for the past 10 years, Dr. McCammon has taken one- to two-week trips around the world, traveling most extensively in Africa and Mexico but also in Ecuador and Trinidad.
Typically, he brings along residents and fellows from Eastern Virginia Medical School, part of IVU’s Resident Scholars program that so far has reached 197 doctors-in-training across the United States. Dr. McCammon’s wife, an emergency room physician, and their two now-grown sons also have volunteered.
IVU was founded in 1995 by Dr. Catherine deVries, a pediatric urologist and Professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Through in-person education and joint research projects at host hospitals, the organization has trained 3,024 surgeons and 1,068 nurses to date.
In addition, IVU offers regular workshops and a popular Virtual Visiting Professor program with interactive lectures, case presentations, consultations and Q&A sessions with top American urologists. In 2020 alone, 41 lectures drew in 990 participants worldwide.
Dr. McCammon currently serves as IVU’s Board Secretary after two terms as Chair. His first trip was to Nigeria, where he was horrified to see many cases of obstetric fistulae in very young mothers who had survived prolonged obstructive labor due to underdeveloped pelvises.
Without proper medical care or access to a C-section, some of the girls had waited for days for help with stillborn babies lodged in their birth canals, leading to significant ischemia from constriction of blood vessels.
Once a hole had developed between the vagina and rectum or bladder, many struggled with urinary or fecal incontinence, infertility, recurrent urinary tract infections, pain, and nerve damage and mobility issues.
“They’re just lost when we meet them,” Dr. McCammon relates. “They’re desperate. Yet they’re also so resilient and strong, and so grateful we can help.”
Men with urethral strictures, meanwhile, frequently have lived with abdominal catheters for years and have lost their jobs. “In most cases, we can easily fix their problem so they can void normally again,” Dr. McCammon notes. “At the same time, we’re teaching surgeons in their own countries how to ensure future patients avoid the same suffering.”
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled multiple IVU trips this year, including Dr. McCammon’s planned visit to Ethiopia.
“The first day I’m able, I’m out the door on another trip,” he says. “I feel so lucky to spend my vacation time doing what I love.”
To learn more, visit ivumed.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.