Humanitarian Efforts

Humanitarian work can be a refreshing change from the frustrations of clinical practice and can be intensely rewarding. It can help to remind us of our motivation for choosing medicine as our life’s work. Working in under-served areas and in countries with limited resources also encourages creative problem-solving and helps to address our own issues of cost-effectiveness.

Photos of Academy Members doing humanitarian work


Humanitarian Efforts Map

The AAO-HNSF Humanitarian Efforts Map outlines humanitarian opportunities available around the world. Are you interested in making a difference in the world? Check the Humanitarian Efforts Map to see what mission trips may be available for medical professionals. (Some opportunities may be impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Humanitarian Efforts Information

Are you interested in supporting the AAO-HNSF’s humanitarian efforts but unsure where to begin? Use the links below to navigate how to get started.

doctor holding child after cleft lip surgery

Humanitarian Travel Grants

Residents have the opportunity to give a period of professional service to the people of a developing country.

AAO-HNSF Distinguished Award for Humanitarian Service

This exceptional award is given each year to a member who is widely recognized for a consistent, stable character distinguished by honesty, zeal for truth, integrity, love and devotion to humanity, a self-giving spirit.

Humanitarian Missions for Residents and Fellows-in-Training

Residency is an optimal time to participate in humanitarian mission trips domestically and especially abroad. Such service can hopefully set a pattern for future service and can be a tremendous learning and teaching experience. Without practice demands and with the energy and open-mindness that often is present in young people, you are encouraged to seek out opportunities to serve.

Funding is often a major barrier to such service. For this reason, the Humanitarian Efforts Committee has created $1,000 travel grants for residents going on mission trips that last a minimum of one week. Additional funding sources may include your family, local otolaryngologists or societies, religious organizations, or corporate funding.

Searching for opportunities may take a considerable amount of time and effort to find one that is feasible for you. But it is completely worth it!

Some options for finding a mission trip:

A starting point is your attendings or other community otolaryngologists. Ask if they go on humanitarian missions and if you could join them. This is preferable since they already know you and would be more willing to oversee you in clinical work abroad. Local hospitals often have a multi-disciplinary team you could join.

Come to the Humanitarian Open Forum at the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO Experience. This is a one to two hour session where people make short presentations on trips they have done and report on their ongoing efforts. Speak with participants and ask about possibilities for joining them on future missions.

Create your own trip – several residents in the past have gone with one of their attendings to a developing country where they already had connections or did a similar service opportunity as a medical student.

Learn more about various humanitarian organizations that offer medical missions abroad for otolaryngologists – head and neck surgeons. We currently have more than 60 organizations listed that span across all corners of the world.

Humanitarian Efforts Database

The Humanitarian Efforts committee has created a Humanitarian Efforts database.

Resources for Humanitarian Missions
Need an anesthesiologist? Visit

General Relief Efforts

NOTE: The foundation’s Humanitarian Efforts Committee created this list to facilitate Academy members’ humanitarian service. The Foundation has no relationship with the organizations, and their inclusion on this site in no way constitutes a recommendation or endorsement. It is up to those who wish to volunteer service to contact the organization(s) of interest for further details.

When you cannot find time to join a medical mission, there are other ways to participate in the humanitarian process.

Ways to Donate Medical Equipment, Instruments, Supplies and Medication, Textbooks and Journals

Are you or someone you know retiring and closing down a medical practice? Why not donate equipment to an under-funded clinic in somewhere like Honduras? We work with several groups that accept medical supplies/equipment to be shipped to under–resource facilities all around the world. Below is a list of organizations we recommend that can distribute donations.


AmeriCares supports U.S. medical teams for international humanitarian work with free medications and medical supplies in addition to educational and training resources. They also have company partners from which they can request products that may not be in their inventory.

Brother’s Brother Foundation

Brother’s Brother Foundation is a gift-in-kind charity which accomplishes its mission by accepting and then redirecting donations of goods and services to areas in need. Groups and corporations donate their surplus items to BBF which are then redirected to the needs of medical missions.

Heart to Heart International

Among many of Heart to Heart International’s initiatives, the group provides medicine and equipment to clinics in the US and to international medical mission teams.


MedShare collects surplus medical supplies and used equipment from U. S. hospitals and manufacturers. These supplies are then made available to medical mission teams overseas or are shipped to hospitals in developing nations.

Project C.U.R.E.

Collects and delivers supplies, prescriptions and equipment to severely resource-limited communities to save lives, make diagnosis and treatment possible

Scanlan International

Based in St. Paul, Scanlan International is a manufacturer of surgical instrumentation. Through Scanlan Life Programs, it donates supplies to support surgical teams undertaking humanitarian missions around the world.

World Medical Relief

World Medical Relief collects and distributes recycled medical/dental equipment, supplies, and medicines to groups undertaking medical missions.

Guidelines for Donating Medical Books, Journals, and Media Overseas


The Humanitarian Resident Travel Grant supports residents and fellows who participate in a medical mission for at least one week. Your donation to this fund will help provide underfunded communities in developing areas with medical assistance in otolaryngology, as well as a fantastic service learning opportunity for the grant recipients.

Interested parties with additional questions, please email [email protected].

What humanitarian opportunities exist for otolaryngologists, residents, or other professionals? What should I expect from a medical mission? What resources are available? Get the answers to these and other questions.

Where can I find humanitarian opportunities for otolaryngologists, residents, or other professionals?

Find basic information on taking the first steps to “Ways to get Involved” in otolaryngology’s humanitarian work.

Check out the Humanitarian Opportunities Database to learn more about various humanitarian organizations that offer medical missions abroad for otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons. We currently have more than 60 organizations listed, stretching around the world. Contact [email protected] for a list.

Residency is an optimal time to participate in humanitarian mission trips domestically and especially abroad. Such service can hopefully set a pattern for future service and can be a tremendous learning and teaching experience.

What is involved in a medical mission?

The following resources will help you better understand what is involved in a medical mission:

Read James D. Smith, MD’s guide on what to expect from a medical mission, including tips on planning and making the most of your volunteer vacation.

What resources are there?

Humanitarian Resident Travel Grants are for residents and fellows in training who wish to participate in a humanitarian medical mission for at least one week. Each grant recipient will receive $1,000 for medical missions.

How else can I contribute to the Academy’s humanitarian efforts?

When time is too much of an issue, there are other ways to participate in the humanitarian process. There are many ways to donate to otolaryngology’s humanitarian endeavors.

Once you have found or created an opportunity for humanitarian service, you can start to work on the many details that will make for a successful trip. Setting a time line for yourself leading up to the trip may be helpful to ensure that the following areas are addressed:

Passport and Visa
This may take several months to secure, so make sure that you start early. If you are being hosted by a person, hospital, or organization you may need a letter of support. You can get information on obtaining a passport and any relevant travel warnings from the State Department website. Make copies of all of your important documents.

Vaccination/Travel Medicines
Start early. Many destinations, missions, and hospitals require a series of several shots to be immunized. Most universities have a travel clinic that provides you with all relevant health information about the country, or you can check the CDC website. At the travel clinic they will talk with you about the need for malaria prophylaxis in addition to medicine needed to treat bacterial diarrhea and other likely health problems. Check to see if your insurance covers you while away and if there is medical evacuation coverage.

Professional Considerations
Find out if you will need a license to practice in the country. You may be required to have a sponsoring physician and obtaining a license may take months. Also consider whether liability insurance is necessary in the country.

Equipment and Supplies
Identify the types and numbers of cases that you expect to do on the mission. Write out a list of all necessary items for performing the case, including microscopes, loupes, headlights, gloves, electrocautery, antibiotics, local and general anesthetic, anesthesia machines, suture, instruments, and cleansing prep. Items such as drapes and sponges can be collected by your OR prior to leaving if this is organized far enough in advance. Some items may already be on site from previous missions, but you must be certain that everything is in working order since spare parts may not be available. Check the electric current of the country so as not to damage equipment. Some institutions and hospitals will lend you the equipment for surgery but most medications will have to be purchased. Suture can be obtained from Medical Assistance Programs International (MAP) if it is available, in addition to some medications. Refurbished electrocautery equipment can be requested from Valley Lab if they are available. Make sure your host meets you at the airport to prevent any difficulty with customs, especially with expensive equipment and medications. Make sure that the medication is not expired before you leave.

Personal Comfort
Bring with you items that will help you be more comfortable. Many times you are in a different time zone surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. Things that may be helpful include: toilet paper, a favorite snack (make sure that it will not spoil or attract insects), a travel pillow, flashlight, book to read, business cards, extra batteries, ibuprofen, and toys/stickers for the children you treat.

Communicating with Home
Cell phones are now used in most countries. Many of your hosts will allow you to borrow their cell phone and you can purchase minutes to use on them. Additionally, you may be able to buy cheap cell phones in the country you are visiting. Cell phones from some domestic carriers are functional internationally. Check with your phone provider for details. Internet cafes are also common although the connections are usually slow.

Money Abroad
Cash and credit are always good. Many places have ATM machines where you can withdraw local currency for a fee with your bankcard. Be certain if you change cash that you are doing it with a reputable individual and that you know the exchange rate. Credit cards can be used in many large cities, but cash is necessary in more remote locations and smaller stores. Make sure that someone in the United States has your credit card numbers and access to have them cancelled if they are lost or stolen.

The AAO-HNS/F Humanitarian Efforts Committee’s mission is to foster and encourage participation of members in global humanitarian efforts in order to improve the prevention and treatment of otolaryngologic disorders within the United States and abroad by:

  • Publicizing opportunities for involvement including the maintenance of a databank of available resources and opportunities
  • Facilitating mechanisms by which otolaryngology trainees develop interest and experience in humanitarian activities including the distribution of trainee travel grants
  • Developing organizational relationships with medical and surgical groups (e.g., AMA, ACS, ACP) and otolaryngology subspecialty groups (e.g., AHNS, AAFPRS, ANS, ACPCA), to encourage and enhance the breadth of humanitarian activities available to AAO-HNS members and trainees
  • Nurturing collaboration with other local and international missions and organizations including IFOS and WHO
  • Evaluating the unique ethical issues and disparity concerns in research and clinical practice in low-resource settings; and, assisting with “best practice” guidelines for management of otolaryngologic disease in low-resource settings and to assist local healthcare providers with implementation.

Committee applications are available for submission toward the end of each calendar year. However, even if you are not currently a member of the committee, you can still attend the Humanitarian Efforts forum and committee meetings as a guest and contribute with ideas or special projects.

We encourage you to contact [email protected] with any recommendations for supplies and assistance.

Miriam I. Redleaf, MD

I am an otologist/neurotologist and former tenured professor at the University of Illinois.

Where do you currently practice, and what is your specialty area?

I am an otologist/neurotologist and former tenured professor at the University of Illinois. Now, I am relocating to be in otology/neurotology and neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico.

What humanitarian organizations are you involved with, and describe what these programs do?

Our four adopted Ethiopian children are in their thirties now, and we have maintained close ties to the country. Since 2012 I have been discovering the infrastructure from which I and others developed education programs in Ethiopia through our charity called the Ethio-American Hearing Project. Some of the programs we provide include:

  • Cued speech education in deaf schools
  • Audiology training and development of audiology testing and treatment sites with the Eduplex Training Institute
  • Otologic surgical training with six surgical (mostly university) sites
  • Development of cochlear implantation in partnership with MED-EL
  • Annual International Ethiopian Otology Conference (2020 canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic)
  • Parkinson’s boxing program

How does your work impact the communities you serve, and how does it impact you as a person?

I believe my work is worthwhile because we have trained five otologists in a country where there had only been one. Two more people are in training now, and two more are on deck to start. Furthermore, we trained 29 audiology technicians in a country where there were no audiologists and only one hearing aid specialist. And we have been able to create a cochlear implant program using only Ethiopian nationals for the work in a country with no audiologists and no otologists.

My motivation for my work is fairness. I think it’s only fair to share our education and get these Ethiopian colleagues on their feet.

What would you say to encourage others to support humanitarian efforts around the world?

My advice to other surgeons would be to put your ego aside and your hopes of operating without electronic medical record hassles and the elaborate obstacles in the United States—try to make the actual place you go to better. Of course we would all love to fly into a country and do 40 stapedectomies and then fly home knowing we helped 40 people hear better. But I strongly feel we have more of a duty to help the surgeons there do the 40 stapedectomies. A corollary to that principle would be that it’s probably best to always go to the same country.

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