Owings Mills ophthalmologist Marc Honig and his son, Evan, could have simply donated some money to help the disadvantaged in Honduras. They could have collected some old eyeglasses, or solicited their colleagues and fellow students for help, or tried to convince big corporations to hand over cash and equipment.
In fact, they've done all of that — and more. This weekend, the Honigs are beginning a week-long stay at a makeshift medical clinic in a small Honduran village. They and some 40 other doctors and students will volunteer their time, screening and treating thousands of villagers from the surrounding area, bringing healing to a corner of the world desperately in need.
"This part of Honduras is really remote, and lacks very basic healthcare," said Marc Honig, 48, who will be making his first visit to the Central American country as part of the Organization for Community Health Outreach (OCHO), a Baltimore-based group looking to provide medical assistance to the poorest areas of the country. "As rewarding as medicine is in America, when you go to these countries and realize that, with so little effort or so little money, things can go so far — it's really a little more rewarding, in some regards. It's really a chance to make a big impact in a short period of time."
Evan, who will be starting his junior year at Pikesville Senior High in September, says he's excited to be traveling to a part of the world he's never visited, and looks forward to the intense medical experience that comes with the trip. Both his parents are doctors — his mom, Barbara Honig, is a dermatologist — and Evan hopes to follow in their footsteps someday.
"In Honduras, I can be a lot more involved than I could be just working in a doctor's office, as like an intern or something," he said.
Both Honigs realize Honduras, with its crushing poverty and largely nonexistent facilities, will be a new experience for them. Marc Honig says he did some similar volunteer work in India some 22 years ago, while he was a resident at GBMC. "But in India, as primitive as it was, it was still in a hospital — or what they considered a hospital," he said. "Here, it's a clinic, where we'll be bringing all our supplies and things like that."
As for Evan, he's eager to make a real difference in people's lives. "In America, people really are very privileged," he said. "I want to see what it's like when people have almost nothing…I was interested in being able to help people."
John Wogan, an emergency room doctor at GBMC who heads OCHO, promised the Honigs and their fellow medical ambassadors will be kept busy. They'll be setting up camp in Atima, a village in the mountainous north-central part of the country some three hours away from the nearest medical facility of any kind, seven hours away from a true hospital. He expects some 3,000 people will have their vision screened during the group's one-week stay; hundreds of pairs of used eyeglasses will be distributed. The elder Honig can expect to perform more than a dozen cataract surgeries during his time there.
"Dr. Honig is going to do some really incredible things wile he's down there," Wogan said. "People will walk for hours just to get to us, because we're the only game in town."
Marc Honig said he's ready for the challenge, heartened by the opportunity to help so many people in need. And he's proud that his son will be by his side the entire time.
"Oh yeah, it's super," he said, acknowledging he's not so sure he would have given over a week of his summer in the same way when he was Evan's age.
"Oh, I was a good kid," the elder Honig said, "but I think every generation keeps getting better and better."