Photo Credit: Angeles Para Honduras (APH) foundation
Larner Alum’s Medical Mission to Honduras
Elizabeth Blasberg, M.D., a 2014 graduate of the Larner College of Medicine, and her colleague, former UVMMC general surgery resident Ryan Kunkel, M.D., both facial plastic surgeons, are gearing up for a medical mission to the Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital for Burned Children and Pediatric Surgery in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in Fall 2024. The mission, sponsored by the Angeles Para Honduras (APH) foundation, aims to address cleft palates and other childhood disfiguring conditions.
The Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital for Burned Children and Pediatric Surgery provides medical care to Honduran children, particularly those who have suffered burns or need reconstructive surgery. The hospital focuses on reducing the delay in pediatric surgeries at a regional level and also hosts international medical brigades, including the upcoming mission led by Blasberg and Kunkel, to address the health care needs of the northwestern region.
Elizabeth first learned of Angeles Para Honduras through her father, and UVM Class of 1971 alumnus, Walter Blasberg. Walter's passion for APH's mission was inspired by his partner—and founder of the organization—John Dewane. Dewane was born in Honduras, where he spent most of his childhood before moving to the U.S. As an adult, he settled in Vermont, but frequently visited Honduras, where he saw the rising crime rate and a community in turmoil. He founded Angeles Para Honduras, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, with the aim of assisting and caring for the health and education of economically disadvantaged Honduran children who have the desire—but not the means—to attend school and receive quality education. Inspired by Dewane, Walter and Elizabeth, along with Elizabeth's mother, fellow UVM alumna Nancy Heckman Blasberg '71, have dedicated themselves to helping the mission of this Vermont-based international organization.
“I think we were all inspired by John’s story,” said Walter Blasberg. “Now that we’ve been able to get our boots on the ground down in Honduras and interact with the people in these communities, we’ve been able to assess two major points of need for these kids—education and health care.”
The groundwork for this Angeles Para Honduras mission was laid during a recent visit to Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital on December 13, 2023. Juan (Johnny) Craniotis-Rios, medical director of Ruth Paz Foundation Hospital, alongside medical brigade director Marcela Martínez, received the group and provided a thorough tour of the hospital, showing the team its various facilities including waiting rooms, patient rooms, operating rooms, pre-op and post-op recovery rooms, supply closets, the pharmacy, the lab, and much more.
Craniotis-Rios, who is also a pediatric surgeon with a specialty in colorectal pediatric surgery, provided a detailed history of Ruth Paz to the team, remarking that it is one of the only facilities in the country offering high-quality specialty care for children, and emphasizing that most services are offered for free or greatly reduced in cost, according to need. It has become a beacon of hope, caring for over 270,000 individuals in San Pedro Sula and the surrounding area.
Martinez will help navigate Kunkel and Elizabeth Blasberg through the bureaucratic process—for example, there is 40-day approval period for missionary doctors. The mission now awaits coordination of a suitable timeframe and the subsequent application process. While the hospital is well-equipped for surgeries, fundraising efforts are under way to cover travel and accommodation costs for the volunteer doctors.
This journey is not just about surgical procedures, however—it’s about mending lives, bringing smiles, and creating lasting impact.
Learn more about the Angeles Para Honduras (APH) foundation here.