How We Choose to Give Back: CEO Tom Seery Talks About the New RealSelf Fellowship

RealSelf Fellowship reconstructive surgery in developing countriesAt RealSelf, we view giving back as our social responsibility, core to our beliefs and culture. A guiding principle to our support of local charities and international medical volunteers is to seek out meaningful ways to make a difference in restoring hope, confidence, and a positive future for those who are most vulnerable and underserved.

We’re excited about the next step in our global giving efforts: the RealSelf Fellowship. This new program expands on our ongoing commitment to support physicians and other medical providers who donate their time and expertise in developing countries.

The origination of the RealSelf Fellowship concept

Particularly in India, we saw firsthand that when a person has terrible body or facial burns, it’s an incredibly challenging injury.

Contractures and injuries resulting from a severe burn are certainly improved after undergoing treatment by a visiting volunteer team of reconstructive surgery experts. But a single surgery does not restore a person to a normal path of life. Burn victims require numerous surgical procedures, often dozens, over long periods of time, plus physical therapy.

The need for reconstructive surgery in the world is vast, and the impact from our annual medical trip sponsorship is subscale with respect to the global problem. Billions of people in the world suffer from reparable conditions like cleft palates and hand injuries. This led us to ask, how can we have a broader, sustained impact in these communities?

Our fellowship concept arose from the fact that every day thousands of doctors engage directly with our online community. The fellowship is a vehicle by which we can help, encourage, and share stories about the humanitarian work these caregivers are doing and planning to do.

The RealSelf Fellowship program goal

Beyond increasing the capacity for medical care in the developing world, we want to raise awareness by telling more stories, like we’ve done in Vietnam and India. It’s not to campaign or raise money with our patient audience. We hope this opens people’s minds and hearts.

As we kick off the RealSelf Fellowship program, our goal is to award six grants, at minimum. In 2017, we hope to double this commitment.

Why the RealSelf Fellowship targets needs in developing nations

The most dramatic lack of care exists in developing countries. Zambia is a country the size of Texas, with about 14.5 million people and only one reconstructive plastic surgeon available to help people with injuries, congenital disorders, you name it.

Compounding these challenges are the disparities that exist among the most vulnerable populations of the world, people who have no resources, no money — they are really living on life’s edge. They have to cook meals over open fires with dangerous equipment. The injury rates and types of injuries are something we haven’t seen here for generations. That combination of factors makes the fellowship incredibly needed.

However, if a fellowship application came in from a place like Appalachia, and we became aware that there was an equivalently dire situation happening, we’d consider it. We’re not going to be close-minded, but generally we’re looking to help where there’s the most severe lack of access and quality of care.

Living our values  

One of our core values is to be continuously accelerating our rate of learning. Our fellowship program will, by design, offer us a unique window into the world of giving, humanitarianism, and the medical needs of people all over the globe. I can only imagine we’ll be humbled by what we learn.

Learn more about the RealSelf Fellowship and how to apply here.

About Tom Seery

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf. Tom is a frequent speaker at medical conferences about practice marketing, reputation management, and competing on the web. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/seery