Dr. Lawrence D. Dorr founded Operation Walk in 1996 and developed its techniques for successful surgical missions in developing countries. These included developing relationships with in-country hospitals and physicians, securing implants and other necessary material donations, building volunteer teams of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals, learning how to transport medical equipment across borders and selecting patients in advance to ensure appropriate implants. As Operation Walk’s reputation grew, it received many more requests from countries that needed help. At the same time, surgeons who volunteered on earlier missions decided that they loved the experience and patients so much that they offered to form additional teams to increase the number of patients Operation Walk could help each year. There are now 14 of these in the United States, two in Canada and one in Europe.
Each team secures volunteers with the range of skills needed based on the Operation Walk model and raises its own funds. Operation Walk team leaders in Los Angeles train each new team on how to perform a successful Operation Walk mission, ensuring quality standards and patient care remain consistent across the network. Further, the Los Angeles team sends a few seasoned individuals with each new team to facilitate any hang ups with cargo, communications, or patient selections and to advise in the field. Each team generally carries out one trip per year although a few are able to complete two missions. In 1999 Operation Walk began performing surgeries in its hometown of Los Angeles for people who could not afford joint implant surgeries. Now most of the U.S. teams perform at least one week of free surgeries for individuals in their states.