Operation Walk is the vision of Lawrence D. Dorr, M.D., a pioneer and leader in joint replacement surgery in the United States. He was inspired at the age of 5 to become a surgeon and his passion to take care of others has never wavered. While on a teaching trip to Russia, he realized that he could better teach physicians by demonstrating — rather than describing — surgery. He also realized that he could bring surgical skills and healing processes to the poorest of the world’s poor while teaching in-country physicians. Thus originated the idea for Operation Walk. He quickly recruited a team of surgeons, internal medicine doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, and physical therapists to join him in a first Operation Walk trip to Havana, Cuba. A former patient, Buddy Litten, made key connections in Havana. The team spent eight months getting all of the implants, medications, surgical supplies, and postoperative supplies ready to be transported to Havana; all supplies were donated and all of the physicians paid their own way.
After the first trip, Jeri Ward and Mary Ellen Sieben became the advance team, going ahead to each country and planning the needs and logistics so when the team arrives it can go right to work. On the first trip to Cuba, 45 joints were successfully replaced in three days, allowing patients to walk again after many years of immobility. Hip replacements made it possible for one woman to have a child who she named Larry. The team was exhilarated and full of enthusiasm to plan the next Operation Walk. Over the next 10 years, Operation Walk teams returned to Cuba six times, helping more than 250 patients. Dr. Dorr has created 14 teams in Operation Walk’s 20 years and still finds each trip as thrilling as the first.