Charity from the heart – FOCOS

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Grace Sutherland receives a special visitor after her spinal fusion surgery in 2011. Courtesy of Grace Sutherland ’16

After two surgeries and five years of wearing a back brace, Convent of the Sacred Heart junior Grace Sutherland decided to educate students about her experience with The Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS) through her new student-run club.
Grace was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, when she was nine years old. After Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and Chief Emeritus of the Scoliosis Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, successfully operated on her, Grace was inspired to teach others about the necessity of orthopedic surgery. 
“I at first had no idea I needed surgery. I wore a back brace for five years before learning I would need surgery. Dr. Boachie was with me through the back brace, surgery, and recovery,” Grace said. 
Dr. Boachie, an expert in treating patients with scoliosis and kyphosis, was born in Kumasi, Ghana. As the Founder and President of FOCOS, he has helped provide orthopedic medical care to under served populations in his native West Africa and other third world nations, according to orthofocos.org.

Grace Sutherland receives a special visitor after her spinal fusion surgery in 2011. Courtesy of Grace Sutherland '16
Grace Sutherland receives a special visitor after her spinal fusion surgery in 2011.
Courtesy of Grace Sutherland ’16

Grace, alongside co-founder junior Kensi Almeida, wanted to create the club to spread awareness for FOCOS’ work in Ghana, Ethiopia and other underdeveloped countries. 
According to orthofocus.orgthe goal of FOCOS is to deliver “optimum orthopedic care and improve quality of life in Ghana, Ethiopia, and other countries.”
“These children have severe spinal deformations and usually need surgery right away. Since all of them come from poor families and villages, they do not have enough money to fund the surgeries,” Kensi said.
In 2012, FOCOS built a hospital in Ghana to conduct complex spine and joint replacement surgeries. The hospital is a fully equipped facility with over 150 full and part-time employees. Donations made to the non-profit foundation funded the building of this hospital, which has helped thousands of patients from different parts of Africa, according to orthofocus.org.
Kensi, Grace, and club members are working to raise money for FOCOS. The club plans on hosting bake sales, pizza lunches and civvies days to raise money for the organization.
“FOCOS also has events in the city that members of the club could attend. This money goes directly to FOCOS and its efforts,” Grace said.
Students can contribute medical supplies to the FOCOS hospital in Ghana or donate money to the Sponsor a Patient (Child) Program, which provides funds to patients in need of surgery. Donations can also be made online directly for the FOCOS cause through orthofocos.thankyou4caring.org.
Grace is not only a FOCOS club head, but also a member of the Young Leaders of FOCOS (YLF), a sub-charity board of FOCOS. She wants to help those who are going through similar experiences.
“Sacred Heart has always been supportive of my ‘spine journey’ so I wanted to share what the majority of my life has been focused on,” Grace said.
– Holly Roth, Staff Writer