Out and About

Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

By Julie Kerns
Garmendia

Some
San Marco residents already know that their neighbor, 52-year-old plastic
surgeon Dr. Dean Glassman, has been a medical missionary for years. However,
not many people know the extent of his charitable work as a pediatric
reconstructive surgeon on volunteer trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines,
Grenada or Brazil — and in Jacksonville with Solace for the Children, a group
providing medical treatment for children from Afghanistan.

Glassman’s
wife Lisa accompanied him on early trips to Grenada, and now daughter
Gabriella, 20, has followed in his footsteps. Gabriella joined her father on
his two most recent trips in 2009 and 2011 to Brazil.

Glassman’s
first volunteer experience was as a young resident plastic surgeon in 1986. He
agreed to go to the Philippines and operate on children with cleft palates.
Later his friend Doug Campbell, founder of Jacksonville-based Children’s Health
Organization Relief & Educational Services (CHORES), invited him to operate
in Grenada. There he did some cleft palate surgeries and general surgery:
repaired old burns, birth defects, congenital abnormalities and some corrective
eyelid surgeries. In 2003, one of Glassman’s patients volunteered him for
medical mission work in Brazil.

“I
started operating on children from Brazil when one of my patients volunteered
me, and eventually I ended up meeting John Mark Bellington, founder of The
Moses Project in Porto Velho, Brazil,” Glassman said. “The first child came
here to Jacksonville, an 11-year-old with cleft lip who I operated on at
Wolfson. The next year in 2004, she returned, and I operated on her palate.

He
said his first trip to Brazil was in 2007 and he has returned every two years
since then. Several local doctors, including Timothy Groover, Bruce Maddern
also have joined him.

Porto
Velho, capital of the Brazilian state of Rondonia, with a population of
approximately 460,000, is on the banks of the Madeira River in the upper Amazon
Basin, about 100 miles from Bolivia. Most patients are native Amazon Indians
from many tribes and cultures, although in Porto Velho and at Camp Moses
Portuguese is the most common language, according to the Glassmans.

In
the U.S., children born with cleft palates undergo surgery between six months
and one year of age, and lip surgeries are performed during the first year. In
poor countries, even those with hospitals, there is rarely a surgeon trained in
specialized cleft surgeries. Although the Jacksonville physicians typically see
children in Brazil, adult patients also have been treated. Glassman recalled
one patient who was 37.

“it is much more difficult to
operate on adults, but that patient was all smiles after his successful
surgery,” he said.

Glassman said his patients there
rarely complain about their condition.

“They
are simply grateful. In some cases they must travel to the states for surgery,
but we can handle many operations there. Some procedures are re-doing surgeries
done elsewhere,” he said. “They usually spend one night in the hospital and
then move to The Moses Project Camp outside of town where they recover.”

Missionary
John Mark Bellington started The Moses Project in 1996 after a medical mission
trip where along with the usual cuts, coughs and worms, a distraught mother
brought her 3-year-old son named Moses who suffered from a rare condition –
rectal atresia. The protrusion of his herniated intestines from his body set in
motion a plan for immediate, life-saving medical evacuation to the U.S. for
treatment, and The Moses Project was born. The project raises funds for medical
expenses, assembles the medical teams, and completes legal paperwork. They also
manage follow-up care for the patients; children from the poorest communities,
where lack of running water and dirt floors are the norm.

“At
The Moses Project Camp the patients are prepped for their surgeries and also
receive after-care. There is a final check-up before we leave, stitches are
removed and instructions left for any follow-up care by plastic or general
surgeons,” Dr. Glassman said. “It’s always hard to leave. My daughter
Gabriella, now pre-med at the University of Florida, has a heart of gold and
she bonded with all the children we saw. On the last trip we also visited an
orphanage and I had to drag her out of there. She didn’t want to leave.”

Gabriella
is following in her father’s footsteps in more ways than one. On the mission
trips she volunteered as surgical assistant and helped wherever needed. After
her first trip she started a club at Bolles to raise funds for The Moses
Project and that has been just one of her many volunteer activities.

“I
have been a volunteer at Shands Hospital-University of Florida assisting the
nurses in recovery, and now I am a volunteer at Shands Children’s Hospital
helping the pediatric immuno-compromised patients,” she said. I do have a soft
spot for surgery after watching what my dad has been able to do for so many. I
also do alot of charity work through my sorority, Kappa Delta, which supports
the Gainesville Child Advocacy Center and the local Girl Scout troop.”

Gabriella
is also a volunteer at Sidney Lanier School in Gainesville; a school for
children with disabilities. There she helps them to complete physical
exercises, participate in creative and social activities, including sports.

“I
want to keep going back to volunteer in Brazil and I am looking for a mission
trip for this summer. Outside of school, I don’t have much free time, but I did
play volleyball in high school and still try to play intramurals, indoor and
sand volleyball for fun,” she said.

The
Glassman family, Dean, Lisa, daughters Sienna and Gabriella and sons Julian and
Jacob have lived in San Marco 15 years, since moving closer to Baptist Medical
Center and the water. Dea, who originally studied architecture, makes time for
a regular sculpture class, working out and basketball. Despite his busy
schedule and Gabriella’s college workload, both say they are already planning
their return trip to The Moses Project in Brazil. The disfigured children of
the Amazon have captured their hearts.

““I
began this volunteer work because I just wanted to help and do whatever I
could, and I hope to continue going back as long as I can,” Dr. Glassman said.

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson,
22, is a Jacksonville native who lives right on the edge of San Marco where it
joins San Jose and has always felt part of both neighborhoods. She will soon
graduate with her degree in early childhood education and the goal of
continuing on to earn her master’s degree. Johnson’s volunteer work at DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn began as a fulfillment of her
degree requirement, but became much more. She believes it confirmed and
strengthened her desire to specialize in the field of special education.

“Since
I was a very little girl, I would pretend that I was teaching my dolls for
hours on end, according to my mother. I think I have always known that I would
teach children, but did not realize I would be so strongly drawn to those with
special needs. I just enjoy interacting with these special kids,” she said.

Johnson
praised the DLC for its inclusion classes, which bring normally developing
children together with children who have disabilities or special needs. Playing
and learning together at such a young age is wonderful for both groups,
according to Johnson.

“There
are not enough programs available that offer inclusion classes, nor are there
enough openings in those classes for all the children who could benefit. The
children play and learn alongside each other and accept their many differences
in such a natural way. It is a beautiful thing to see them all so happy to be
together and to know they will grow into more compassionate and understanding
adults as a result of their experience in such a diverse, inclusive school,”
Johnson said.

DLC
is only the latest community involvement for Johnson, who began to volunteer
during her teens. For three summers, ten hours a week, during high school,
Johnson helped children complete creative arts and crafts projects at Nemours
Children’s Clinic while they waited for their appointments.

Johnson
not only has a heart for children with disabilities and chronic conditions, she
also is very aware of the many children who face separation that may be long-term
or permanent from one or both parents. She is a longtime supporter of
Angel Tree Christmas, a program of Prison Fellowship. The organization is a
non-profit, Christian charity that sponsors Angel Tree Christmas as a way to
help imprisoned parents maintain their bond with their children. The program
seeks to connect imprisoned parents with their families through the delivery of
Christmas gifts. More than 1.7 million children spend Christmas separated from
their mom or dad, according to the organization.

Prison
Fellowship also offers many other programs for inmates and their families,
according to Johnson. The children of inmates suffer during the separation and
can best be described as the invisible, often forgotten victims of their
parent’s mistakes. Prison Fellowship is the only national ministry to focus
attention on the children of inmates. Their research has shown that 1 in 3
prisoners is a parent and approximately 75% of women prisoners are mothers.

“Prison
Fellowship is such a great organization because not only do they make sure a
parent in prison can give his or her child a gift at Christmas, but they work
to help the inmates and families in so many different ways. They also assist
inmates in the difficult task of assimilating back into their families and the
community when they are released,” Johnson said.

Not
surprisingly, Johnson’s mother Myra Johnson is also a teacher. She instructs
Spanish at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and has been a volunteer in the
community. Mrs. Johnson coordinated the Dreams Come True group at Douglas
Anderson. Johnson’s brother Kyle, 19, and an FSCJ student, was an active
volunteer while in high school who was honored with a scholarship for his
efforts.

“I’m
sure that my mother’s volunteer and career activities helped instill in me the
interest in helping others, and also the love of learning and teaching
children. My passion is inspiring kids to want to learn more, whatever their
challenges may be,” she said. “I know that even when I finish school and begin
my career, I will still find time to volunteer in some capacity. I also love
animals and would like to help out at an animal shelter.”

With
her classes and internship, Johnson has little free time as she nears
graduation, and has had to give up most other activities for now. She is a
member of Lakewood United Methodist Church where she attends with her mother,
brother, and her father, Gene Johnson. Gene is the director of media for The
Dalton Agency. The fifth and furry member of the Johnson family is Teyton,
Kayla’s rescue mutt.

“When
I finish my master’s degree and get settled into my career, I look forward to
taking up yoga classes, something I’ve always wanted to try. As far as looking
ahead farther into the future, some friends and I were just sitting talking
about how we would all like to own a business someday. I don’t know what it
might be yet, but that is definitely a dream in the back of my mind—something
to look forward to after I retire from teaching,” she said.

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers, 50, retired from her military
career in human resources in 2007 and wasn’t at all sure about the next step in
her life – until she went onto the internet to research volunteer opportunities
in Jacksonville. HandsOn Jacksonville popped up and Rogers recalls her delight
at the one-stop smorgasbord of volunteer positions that appeared alphabetically
by agency.

“There were so many agencies in need of
volunteers I couldn’t believe it. I made full use of that website, going
carefully over all the entries whenever I had free time. You can find out what
the nonprofit does, who they serve and what volunteer jobs are available. It
also explains what each job involves and any other requirements, so before you
even contact them you have a pretty good idea if you’d like to try that
volunteer position. I learned a lot about what charities, service organizations
and nonprofits we have in Jacksonville,” she said.

Only
knowing that she wanted to be productive and maintain a regular volunteer
schedule, so Rogers explored the opportunities until she clicked on DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn, Inc. DLC is a special
education school and daycare dedicated to caring for and teaching special needs
children, ages birth to 22, in a loving, Christian atmosphere. A ministry of
the Northeast Florida district of The United Methodist Church, the center is
located inside of Murray Hill United Methodist Church.

“All
I remember of finding DLC was how I felt when I saw the beautiful photographs
of the precious children they help. I just melted. I contacted DLC, set up an
interview and took the tour,” she said. “After I passed the required background
check, I began helping with the infants and toddlers, basically just holding,
feeding and loving them. I always try to be there at the busiest times,
especially meals. The children come in all shapes and sizes with various
needs.”

Two
days each week, 40 hours a month, Rogers can be found with the kids at DLC. She
said that she loves each one and takes pride in helping them and cheering on
their progress. As they grow, develop and are able to leave for school and the
next steps in their education, Rogers feels torn.

“I
know I’m making a difference in their lives. After I care for them for a couple
of months, when I walk in they will call ‘Miss Jane’, ‘Miss Jane’ and drop
whatever they’re doing and run to me to see who gets picked up first. I get
goose bumps just thinking about how they recognize and reach for me. If I take
a week or two off I can’t wait to get back to see them,” she said. “I’m so
proud of their achievements from small to large. It’s impossible not to become
attached. That bond is what keeps me going back. It is very hard to see them
leave the center, so I just give them all the love and attention I can while I
have them. It’s the most rewarding thing I do.”

Jane
and her husband David, a retired military meteorologist now working on
government contracts for aviation clients, moved to Jacksonville for career
reasons. The couple has lived, worked and traveled extensively in the U.S. and
overseas and enjoys planning major trips every year. Besides long walks and
good books, they have found that volunteer work can be as rewarding as a paid
position and the combination has enriched their personal lives, travel and
hobbies even more.

David
is an avid motorcyclist who began riding when he was just 14-years-old —probably
why Jane has a world of patience for his five motorcycles and 14 dirt bikes. He
is an active member of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Northeast Florida, repairs
his own bikes and enjoys local and regional road trips, or cross-country trips
to destinations like Mexico.

“I
just try not to think about how risky it actually is. He always is dressed in
the full safety gear and helmet and is such a careful and experienced
motorcyclist. Of course traveling on a motorcycle makes the rider simply more
vulnerable in any accident, but he absolutely loves it,” she said.

Jane
plans to continue her volunteer work as long as she can and urges others to
take the time to find the perfect agency to help.

“I
don’t think most nonprofits have enough help, and it adds so much to life. I
really enjoy working with the children and believe I am contributing. Anyone
can make a difference to someone in need, no matter what your age, background
or skills may be,” she said. “I realize that not everyone can handle working
with special needs children, but there are so many different ways to help in
the community.”