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Hearts Without Borders: The EurAsia Heart Foundation



Have you ever wondered how much a human life is worth? Some may say millions, while others argue it's priceless. However, in developed countries, the question of a child's life and death can often be resolved with just a thousand-dollar donation. The EurAsia Heart Foundation, spearheaded by Doctor Paul Robert Vogt, has been treating patients from developing countries for over 24 years, conducting around 6000 surgeries and providing consultations to more than 36’000 patients while simultaneously training local medical professionals.

Sveta and Ben Banerjee, the founders of Impact Investing Solutions and hosts of the Swiss Impact TV show, discussed with Dr. Vogt his organization's mission, inception, and impactful contributions.

The foundation focuses on surgical procedures, training and education in the field of pediatric and adult cardiology and cardiovascular surgery and primarily operates in Armenia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. At the request of governments, the Eurasian Heart Foundation educates medical personnel from these countries in its facilities, imparting what is most difficult to learn: practical knowledge, technical skills, and their application both in the operating room and in the intensive care unit.


The organisation began with Dr. Vogt, a professor of cardiovascular surgery and former director of the cardiac surgery department at a university hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. With more than four decades of experience in cardiovascular surgery, he has performed over 12’000 operations, including the most intricate interventions on the heart, major arteries in the chest and abdomen, heart valves, and coronary arteries including cardiac transplantations. Dr Vogt claims he understood his life's path from childhood: "You know, basically I always wanted to become a doctor when I was a child. This was my only wish, there was not any alternative on the horizon," he reflects.


Dr. Vogt set out to create an organisation that helps bridge the gap in medical inequality. Working primarily in developing countries, the foundation aims not only to perform surgeries but also to stimulate sustainable changes in local healthcare ecosystems, transfer of knowledge to local specialists helping them to continue the work initiated. "We always wanted to leave an educated and improved team back in these countries. Just going there, doing surgery, and leaving is not a solution. We are essentially an educational and teaching foundation," explains Dr. Vogt, emphasising the organisation's vision.


At the core of the organisation's operational strategy lies the idea of sustainable progress achieved through iterative missions. Rather than engaging in short-term interventions, the organisation prioritises continuity and collaboration, focusing on nurturing local medical talent and infrastructure over time. Their approach involves conducting missions spanning two to three weeks, during which they perform surgeries, ensure post-operative care, and maintain communication until all patients are discharged. This sustained engagement allows Dr. Vogt’s team to effectively train the local medical specialists, emphasising the importance of building capacity alongside delivering care.


The longstanding collaboration with Wuhan Hospital in China, spanning over two decades, is evidence of the effectiveness of continuous engagement. Initially founded on education, the partnership has evolved alongside the hospital's growth and has been ongoing for 24 years. Moreover, the emphasis remains on adapting to local experience and community needs. "There is no point in going somewhere twice, thrice, or four times, and then never go back; continuity is everything," asserts Dr Vogt. The foundation's mission is rooted in stories of lives forever changed.


The EurAsia Heart Foundation operates solely on charitable principles, not requiring any payment from patients. Each member of Dr Vogt's team is a highly qualified specialist willing to work for the benefit of society despite any difficulties. A sincere desire to help people forms the foundation of the organisation, as its work is truly challenging, from financial constraints to language barriers. Only limited financial resources hinder the breadth of the organisation's activities, as Dr. Vogt himself explains: "Our biggest problem is potential capacity: the more money we have, the more missions we can accomplish. It's very simple if you look at Afghanistan and Iraq, our latest destinations in urgent need: if you can save one child for $1,000, we could easily save 1,000 children a year in all these countries." Language barriers also hinder the dissemination of specialised medical knowledge in different cultural contexts, as teaching intensive care medicine in developing countries is sometimes seriously impeded by the need for complex explanations and linguistic and cultural differences.


Despite the challenges, the organisation's work does not cease even in the most difficult periods and catastrophes. Some of Europe's brightest specialists repeatedly travel to new countries through The EurAsia Heart, establishing new collaborations, teaching the intricacies of their work, and performing thousands of surgeries for residents. Workers do not seek to change the whole world; their priority is each surgery, and the life of each patient. The foundation's goal is quality and longevity, not quantity: "Our motivation is to be better. We follow our patients, even offering remote assistance if issues arise after the operation."


Thanks to The EurAsia Heart, many patients' stories have changed for the better, instilling new hope in them, and for Dr Vogt, this is the most precious reward: "The thought of children whose future is so uncertain that even their mothers dare not believe in a happy ending troubles me... It's best if our work helps save patients' lives, save children. There is no better reward than seeing a child survive, being able to live a normal life, and bring joy to their parents."


The work of organizations like The EurAsia Heart Foundation underscores the potential of impact investing to drive meaningful change. Projects such as these not only save lives but also contribute to shaping a brighter future for communities worldwide.

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