In the beginning of November, Dr. Charlie Finn returned from Haiti. Like many of the doctors we speak with at Enova Illumination, he was there on a surgical mission. However, in this case he returned from a mission through his own foundation. As his dedication to surgical missions grew over the years, beginning his own foundation seemed like the right way to give back.
Dr. Finn began his surgical mission work through FACE TO FACE, the humanitarian wing of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. FACE TO FACE offers facial and reconstructive surgeries free of charge in three areas: wounded veterans, victims of domestic abuse, and surgical mission work. Dr. Finn traveled around the globe, going on 15 missions in places like Russia, India, and Vietnam.
Through his work with FACE TO FACE and pro bono surgeries to local people in need, Dr. Finn gives his time and expertise to those that needed help. From his home in North Carolina, to the far-flung field work around the world, there was no shortage of people needing surgical help. But when a local patient named Chad couldn’t afford his Accutane prescription, it inspired Dr. Finn to start his own foundation in the hopes of making a greater impact (more of the history on his website here).
With the creation of the FINN Foundation, Dr. Finn started his first surgical mission 5 years ago in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. At the onset of Dr. Finn’s first mission, resources and personnel were scarce to say the least. Armed only with the tools they could bring with them, surgeries that first year took place in a church basement. Dr. Finn was accompanied by only his wife and a nurse, carrying out as many surgeries as the small team could manage.
Yet, through perseverance and gradual increases in donations, his foundation has grown more effective and widespread. The FINN Foundation still runs an annual surgical mission in Guatemala, now with a team of 15 including 5 or 6 surgeons. They perform up to 50 surgeries in a week ranging from cleft lips to microtia and trauma surgeries, prioritizing the poorest patients who will likely have no other options for help. But the FINN Foundation has also jumped borders, as evidenced by Dr. Finn’s return from Haiti.
Operating out of the city of Jacmel along Haiti’s southern coast, this branch of the FINN Foundation is in its earliest stages. Only two doctors went along on the trip this November (Dr. Finn included), but they managed to perform 17 surgeries to high-priority patients. They removed head and neck tumors in addition to more common procedures, generally doing “whatever is needed” for the patients they encountered.
However inspirational the goals of a mission surgeon may be, none of it can occur without funding and equipment. Much of the success of surgical missions and medical foundations relies on cooperation between multiple organizations. But there must also be substantial monetary resources, which is where the 501(c)3 status of Dr. Finn’s foundation comes into play.
In the case of the FINN Foundation, most donations come from patients at his local practice, with some donations from family members as well. Shutterfly photo-albums are made after each of his mission trips and left on the tables in the reception area of his practice. While waiting for their own procedures, patients can look through all the success stories from abroad and learn how they can help support the continuation of Dr. Finn’s mission work. Many patients end up donating out of pocket to support the FINN Foundation.
Yet, despite substantial funding, Dr. Finn makes sure the money only gets used where it is needed. Volunteers on Dr. Finn’s missions still bring their own equipment and pay for their own airfare, ensuring that donations to the foundation benefit only the patients.
It is because of the self-funded nature of the FINN Foundation’s missions that we were lucky enough to come across Dr. Charlie Finn. One of Dr. Finn’s colleagues rented an XLT-125A LED surgical headlight for a mission with the foundation years ago and introduced Dr. Finn to Enova’s products. Dr. Finn uses the XLT-125A in his practice and remains very committed to his local pro bono philanthropy and the growth of the FINN Foundation. We are so grateful we got to learn about Dr. Finn’s work, and look forward to more updates about future endeavors.