In 2012, Michael Brodsky was treated at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for a congenital heart condition called a bicuspid aortic valve. Brodsky, a commercial real estate investor and developer in the Washington metro area, had thought of becoming a heart surgeon as a child, so he was fascinated by his valve replacement surgery.
Because he had such a positive experience with the doctors, nurses and administration, Brodsky says he decided to become more involved with the Heart and Vascular Institute, and became an advisory board member in 2013. Soon after, he read an article in Hopkins Medicine magazine about pediatric surgeon Luca Vricella’s efforts teaching and performing heart surgeries in Cambodian children through the On My Way Fund. After brokering a meeting with Vricella, observing him in the operating room and attending one of his fundraisers, Brodsky was hooked on the cause.
Through the fund, Vricella and a team of Johns Hopkins medical volunteers travel to Siem Riep, Cambodia, twice a year to operate and teach at Kantha Bopha II Children’s Hospital. They also bring medical supplies not easily obtained in the area. During each mission, which costs an estimated $38,000, they perform 10 to 12 heart operations and 10 to 15 cardiac catheterizations and evaluate up to 100 children.
“What attracted me to Luca is that he helps his local community and his global community to the best of his ability,” Brodsky says. “It blows me away in today’s world where we’re all just trying to get ahead. [His team] really does give back, in a meaningful way. They’re saving lives and teaching doctors the procedures. Hopefully one day, the Cambodian hospital will be able to do complicated procedures without Luca’s help. If I can be a small part of it and help his team, I’m really grateful and honored to do so.”
In May 2016, Brodsky and his 20-year-old daughter, Alexa, accompanied Vricella’s group to Cambodia. While the Brodskys couldn’t offer clinical care, they did help communicate with the patients’ families, offering a thumbs-up sign or other gestures to let them know their children were doing well in the operating room and delivering supplies to the surgical team as needed.
“It was pretty amazing,” Brodsky recalls. “It makes you realize how lucky we are to have access to the health care that we have. I think we take it for granted. There, the patients and families are so appreciative of everything you do, and everyone is so patient.” Since returning home, he and his wife hosted their own fundraiser for the On My Way Fund, which raised thousands of dollars.
Vricella says Brodsky feels like part of the team: “We’re all very thankful that he got involved. To keep this program sustainable, we need somebody like him who decides to put his soul into something that is a good cause.
“Michael is an incredibly engaging individual,” Vricella adds. “He’s got a great spirit, a great soul and a great disposition, and he really wanted to do something good. [In Cambodia], he was with us the whole time.”