The Daily Medical Examiner continues its sporadic recognition of health heroes with nomination of Dr. Russell M. Brinkels as this week’s DME Health Hero.
SUNRISE, AZ – After getting his kids through college and putting the finishing touches on the beach house, Russ Brinkels felt like something was missing.
“I needed an adventure, I needed to get out of the house, and I needed to do something good for someone else.
The retired pathologist founded “Saving the Savages” (STS), a non-profit agency crusading for health improvements in the remotest Amazon regions. Twice a year, he and partner Jon Muchkigns, a retired orthodontist, venture into the depths of the rainforest, armed with equipment for cholesterol testing and backpacks brimming with statin medication samples, glucose meters, and oral diabetic medications.
“We Americans have so much; we’ve got to reach out, to give back to people who don’t have access to the same things we do. You should see the look of wonder and confusion when we hand a man who doesn’t even have proper clothes a sample pack of Lipitor. It’s like he can’t even begin to understand why anyone from a far off land would want to do this amazing thing for him.”
When asked what type of impact his work is making in the region, Brinkels eyes twinkle with delight.
“A lot of people fritter their lives away obsessing about results you can measure. I look into the bewildered eyes of the people we’re helping, and I feel that warm feeling of goodness inside of me, and that’s all the result I need.”
Later this year, STS is planning its most audacious Amazonian health intervention yet. Dr. Brinkel and his partner have hired a private pilot and are planning to drop several hundred pounds of insulin syringes, diet and exercise pamphlets, and low-calorie meal-replacement bars over an isolated region of the rainforest.
Brinkels tears up when he speaks of his work, “When you walk up to someone in the rages of malarial fever or dried to the bone by dengue fever and you tell them they’ll never have to worry about their cholesterol again, you see this weight lifted off their shoulders and…wow…that’s life-changing.”
Dr. Brinkels courageous effort, unencumbered by questions of medical reason or cultural sensitivity, to bring cholesterol reduction to a people who didn’t even realize they needed it is what makes him this week’s Daily Medical Examiner Health Hero.
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