Dr. Gay Garrett, Our 2018 Solidarity Award Winner

In recognition of her remarkable work with our patients and medical partners in Bolivia, Dr. Meredith (Gay) Garrett received Solidarity Bridge’s top honor, the 2018 Solidarity Award, at our annual gala on April 14. In her acceptance speech, she spoke passionately about the need “to move the mountains of resource inequality” between Bolivia and the United States.

 (From left) Executive Director Ann Rhomberg, honoree Dr. Gay Garrett, and Solidarity Bridge Board Chair Dale Granchalek at Fiesta 2018.

(From left) Executive Director Ann Rhomberg, honoree Dr. Gay Garrett, and Solidarity Bridge Board Chair Dale Granchalek at Fiesta 2018.

Dr. Garrett is a general surgeon and vice-chairman of surgery at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, part of the Johns Hopkins Medicine network. After years of researching mission organizations rooted in mutual service, Dr. Garrett first connected with Solidarity Bridge through our online application process. She went on her first mission trip in 2010 and immediately embraced the training and equipping elements of our work.

She has made key contributions ever since. A natural leader in the O.R., Dr. Garrett has a respectful disposition and unique ability to mentor mission partners in advanced surgical techniques for hernia, gallbladder, and other surgeries. She teaches complex procedures by talking through each step, then moves aside to invite hands-on practice, always nearby offering support and guidance.

By sharing her expertise, she has multiplied her impact and helped to introduce and expand laparoscopic surgery at several of Bolivia’s top public hospitals. Accepting the 2018 Solidarity Award, Dr. Garrett said, “The strength and sustainability of Solidarity Bridge has come out of the long-term relationships with our offices in Bolivia and with the local hospitals we work in. This is paramount.”

“I keep returning to Bolivia because I treasure the reverberating impact of our short trips,” she added. “Our partner surgeons have become the teachers and leaders in more remote areas and to me, that is very exciting!”

 Drs. Garrett and Vallejos work together on a recent general surgery mission trip

Drs. Garrett and Vallejos work together on a recent general surgery mission trip

Dr. Garrett noted Bolivia’s limited access to the lifesaving technologies that define medicine in the United States, saying partner surgeons “need to be bridged to more resources.” Among her closest collaborators is Dr. Jaime Vallejos, a general surgeon from Viedma Hospital in Cochabamba who was also recognized at the gala.

“With the notion of somos uno—we are one—etched in her heart, Dr. Garrett does much here in the United States, too,” said Ann Rhomberg, Solidarity Bridge executive director, who presented the award. “She has inspired medical supply companies and individuals in her community to support our mission through in-kind and cash donations. She is a compassionate caregiver, inspiring leader, and herself a generous donor.”

Dr. Garrett is featured in a documentary about Solidarity Bridge that will air throughout 2018 on the PBS program Visionaries (Watch a preview that was shown at the gala). Reflecting on her work in Bolivia, she told Fiesta attendees, “The enormity of the unmet needs is large-scale and heartbreaking. It’s extremely gratifying to see the progress we have made, but we have ambitious goals in the years to come. . . . Together we can and must move the mountains of resource inequality.