It is odd how much stuff we Americans throw away. There was a day when you could get your radio, TV set, toaster or roller skates repaired. If the soles of your shoes had holes, they could be resoled.

Today we live in a disposable society. It is cheaper to buy new than get something repaired. Weird.

But into this mix there are people who see how to help others with our surplus, with what is often thrown away.

A. B. Short, the old friend I introduced in my last column, began in 1998 a non-profit organization to make life easier by using what others deem unusable. His organization, MedShare International, provides vital medical supplies and equipment to economically developing countries.

He does it by recycling unneeded surplus from manufacturers, distributors and healthcare systems in the United States.

MedShare International recovers and delivers medical goods that are valuable and needed, but which would be discarded due to procedural excess, regulatory requirements or production overage.

Shipments go to qualified healthcare facilities in developing countries and are customized by direct product orders from MedShare’s stock by the recipient institutions.

This way MedShare offers U.S. healthcare providers and suppliers an environmentally and socially responsible alternative to throwing away medical materials.

Every year, thousands of patients in the economically developing world are turned away without medical aid because hospitals in those countries cannot afford the cost of basic medical supplies.

Yet federal regulations compel hospitals in the United States to discard more than $6.25 billion worth of unused medical supplies and equipment each year–ranging from sutures, syringes and sterile gloves to medical equipment like stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, ophthalmoscopes, electrosurgical units, anesthesia units, infant incubators and even hospital beds.

The supplies are valuable and useful, the equipment outdated but still operable. Each could mean life or death for someone, somewhere.

Dr. David P. Gaus, director of Andean Health and Development, says: “MedShare has succeeded in accomplishing the difficult task of coupling a tremendous vision with the ability to implement that vision. I applaud your incredible work. Thank you for everything you do for communities like ours around the globe.””

Father Bill Fryda, M.D., of St. Mary’s Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya, writes his appreciation: “I’m just very grateful for the wonderful supplies we receive for our people from MedShare. One day last week we treated 619 people in the Outpatient Department! Even on a ‘normal’ day, we are treating 500-plus folks. The wards are packed, and Surgery and Maternity are similarly busy.”

“Thank you again for your recent support with our mission trip to Haiti. The trip was an eye opener and very much a success. Your supplies were badly needed and gratefully accepted,” comes from Mark and Cheri Bourchier, Sugar Hill United Methodist Church.

Albert K. Blackwelder, associate administrator at Emory Hospitals, wrote on the MedShare Web site: “It’s wonderful to know that the materials we no longer use are serving a good purpose. MedShare International does an excellent job of ensuring that all materials are … shipped to countries that are in dire need.”

And from Ethiopia, Sebri Omer of ANA Enterprises, writes: “I want to thank you personally for your generosity in donation of medical equipment and supplies to Yemege Medical Center. This equipment will make a significant impact on the medical delivery system in Harar, Ethiopia.”

These are but a few of the thousands of reports of MedShare’s investment in helping others. Other recent shipments have gone to Angola, Honduras and Zambia.

There must health care institutions and individuals elsewhere looking for a place to donate items they would most likely discard.

Contact A.B. Short at MedShare International, 3240 Clifton Springs Road, Decatur, GA 30034. Telephone: 770-323-5858. For donation information:

They are proof we don’t have to be a “throw-away” society.

Britt Towery’s column appears in the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.

Previous related column:
Atlanta Café Reaches Out to Homeless

Share This