About Us


What We Are About

The life-saving ambitions of Worldwide Healing Hands are accomplished through medical missions that serve two critical purposes; they bring modern medical expertise and medicines to quash high maternal and infant mortality rates, and they train local physicians and midwives so that the expedition has a long-lasting positive effect in the area.

What We Do

For millions of women in the developing areas of the world childbirth is a matter of life and death. Worldwide Healing Hands is committed to mitigating this tragic certainty with skilled medical volunteers, modern equipment and medicines.

Skilled Obstetrical Care

These five major causes of maternal mortality are all treatable if the woman has access to trained healthcare workers at a well-equipped healthcare facility:

  • Hemorrhage (severe blood loss)
  • Sepsis (infection)
  • Unsafe abortion
  • Hypertensive disorders (high blood pressure which can lead to seizures)
  • Obstructed labor

In the most resource-poor countries, maternal mortality has been attributed to what is called the three delays:

  • The delay in deciding to seek care
  • The delay in reaching care in time
  • The delay in receiving adequate treatment

Mothers and newborns can be saved with access to inexpensive tools such as:

  • Clean birth kits
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • Medication for maternal hemorrhage

Until recently, surgical services in developing countries have been largely neglected, despite the critical role surgical intervention can play in preventing disease and saving lives. Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, refers to surgery as “the neglected stepchild of public health.” The amazing benefits brought about by the advances in surgical technology in the past 20 years are available only to people in wealthy countries and to the wealthy people of the middle-income countries.

Lack of Equipment

Nowhere in medicine are global disparities more striking than in surgery.

Worldwide Healing Hands witnessed this firsthand in Chad, Nepal and Haiti.

We were unable to administer anesthesia even though the equipment was available because of the lack of compressed gasses required to make the machine operational. Lack of electricity forced us to work by head lamp at night.

In Haiti, in the aftermath of the earthquake, two operating rooms had to share one suction machine by passing the hose back-and-forth through a window. Instruments that were intended for single patient use had to be sterilized and used over and over again.

Woman providing medical care to infant in mobile hospital

Maternal Disability

Maternal mortality continues to be a major source of lost life and can be prevented with access to surgical care.

Surgical intervention can prevent disability and in many cases be lifesaving for the following conditions:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Incomplete abortion
  • Obstructed labor
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Fibroid uterus causing hemorrhage and anemia
  • Fistula
  • Cervical cancer

Surgical care does not have to be expensive to be both safe and effective. Handheld ultrasound devices have been proven to be reliable and rapid in diagnosing surgical disease. Cellular phones and internet access can enable worldwide collaboration and consultations with specialists.

Doctor delivering a baby

Family Planning

Family planning is one of the most effective tools for reducing maternal mortality.

Women who receive education and contraceptive options are more likely to delay childbearing, have fewer children, and reduce their risk for obstetrical complications. Nevertheless, 50 percent of all pregnancies worldwide, nearly 300,000 a day, are unplanned or unwanted.

Women in poor communities lack access to family planning tools. Clinics are too far away, user fees are too high, and transportation costs are beyond their means. Affordable, accessible family planning is estimated to be able to save the lives of more than 100,000 women every year.

Woman talking to a group of people


Sustainability of health care after a Worldwide Healing Hands mission is completed is an essential component of our efforts to deliver medical care to underserved areas. Education and training are two of the most effective tools to improve conditions for mother and infants in developing areas.

Midwives need training to be able to recognize the most common problems early in the labor process. They also need training to perform simple procedures, such as manual removal of the placenta, to mitigate mortal risks. When Worldwide Healing Hands goes into an area, part of our mission is to instruct midwives to recognize the problems identified by the United Nations Population Fund.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has identified five basic emergency obstetric and newborn care capabilities that can be provided in large or small health centers and that are necessary to protect mothers against preventable death:

  • The administration of antibiotics, oxytocics (drugs that produce uterine contractions and can treat hemorrhage) and anticonvulsants (used to treat eclampsia and pre-eclampsia)
  • Manual removal of the placenta following birth
  • Removal of retained tissue following miscarriage or abortion
  • Assisted vaginal delivery
  • Newborn care
Doctor teaching nurse

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New Mothers of Nepal

Get a genuine feel for what it’s like on a Worldwide Healing
Hands mission. Photography by National Geographic
Photographer, Ben Horton.


Medical Advisors

Paula R. Dhanda, MD, FACOG, FACS
Chair of the Board / Medical Director. Kelseyville, CA, USA

Paula R. Dhanda, M.D. FACOG, FACS is well known for her many years of service to the women of Lake County for over 30 years. She has received numerous awards for alleviating suffering and promoting wellness. In 2014, His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized her work as an honoree at the Unsung Heroes of Compassion.  Dr. Dhanda is a Clinical Associate Professor at the State University of New York Upstate Medical School.

Michael S. Baggish, MD, FACOG
Medical Advisor St. Helena, CA, USA

Michael S. Baggish, M.D., FACOG is recognized nationally and internationally as a remarkable surgeon, clinical researcher and professor; published over 170 times. Dr. Baggish has served as Director and Chairman of Residency Training at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, developing the largest OB/GYN program to date in Ohio. He is also well known for his time at the SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse as the Chief, Chairman and Head Professor in the OB/GYN program.

Arthur Bikangaga, MPH, MD, FACS
Medical Advisor Kelseyville, CA, USA

Arthur Bikangaga, MPH, M.D., FACS is an exceptionally experienced general surgeon of over 40 years who is highly regarded by his patients and named one of the leading surgeons in California. Dr. Bikangaga has an MPH in Maternal and Child Health, which has proved invaluable to Worldwide Healing Hands. Originally from Kabale, Uganda, Dr. Bikangaga ties us to White Ribbon Alliance.

Melanie Ramachandran, MD, FACOG
Medical Advisor Syracuse, NY, USA

Melanie Ramachandran, M.D. specializes in Gynecology and has served the Syracuse, NY area for over 30 years. Dr. Ramachandran is a Clinical Associate Professor at the State University of New York Upstate Medical School. Dr. Ramachandran is a mentor and advisor at SUNY Syracuse for Female Medical Students. She also supports an organization which helps train physicians in India.

Nancy J. Reynolds, MD, FACOG
Medical Advisor Lakeport, CA, USA

Nancy J. Reynolds, M.D., FACOG has over 35 years of practice as a clinical obstetrician in Northern California. With an outstanding educational background, including Stanford University and Dartmouth Medical School, Dr. Reynolds received the title of Outstanding Resident Instructor. Dr. Reynolds devotes a lot of time to her family.

Robert K. Silverman, MD, FACOG
Medical Advisor Syracuse, NY, USA

Robert Silverman, MD is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. Dr. Silverman is also the division chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, obstetrical director of the Regional Perinatal Program and the director of the Regional Genetics Program. He earned his Medical Degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, his residency at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan and fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Dr. Silverman joined Upstate’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1988. He was promoted to the rank of Professor in 2009 and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2011.

Board of Directors

David Santos
President & CEO, St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake

David Santos was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake in May 2014. Santos joined the leadership team at SHCL in 2011 as Vice President of Operations, responsible for all operations of the 25-bed hospital and its multiple affiliated clinics in Lake County. During his tenure, the hospital has experienced remarkable growth in patient visits, staff, employee engagement, provider recruitment and financial health. As CEO, Santos has led an expansion of service lines and clinics, including the innovative Live Well Program in Clearlake and the Konocti Wellness Center, a collaborative effort between SHCL and the Konocti Unified School District that features a clinic located on the campus of Lower Lake High School.

Lou Lesko
Director of Media, San Francisco, CA, USA

Lou Lesko is a veteran photographer, writer and commercials director. He started shooting in 1984 and has won several awards for his work including, most recently, the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism. He started directing in 1999 and started writing professionally in 2001. His first book was published in 2007. This led to him becoming the managing editor at National Geographic Assignment for three years.

Anthy O’Brien
Member of the Board, Petaluma, CA, USA

Anthy O’Brien is President and CEO of a successful data communication company. Anthy is very active in local non-profits as well as in city and county economic development initiatives.

Shannon Gunier
Chair of The Board, Lower Lake, CA, USA

Shannon Gunier has over 30 years sales and marketing experience in running her own successful business with her husband and executing a variety of marketing and training projects for small businesses across the US. Shannon has retired from her tenure with the Winegrape Commission and is looking forward to working on the Board of Worldwide Healing Hands.

Nell Shaul
Treasurer, Kelseyville, CA USA

Nell Shaul moved to Lake County 30 years ago. Since 1981, her husband has owned and operated an internet communication business which nationally and internationally networks recyclers of farm and construction equipment, parts and attachments. Nell assists with the operation and management of the business. Nell is new to the WHH board but eager to contribute. She began by arranging a trip to Texas for Dr. Dhanda – and introducing her to Dr. Maggi, founder of the West Africa Fistula Foundation in Sierra Leone. Nell describes herself “as a quick learner dedicated to women’s health and willing to do whatever she can to help acquire funding for Worldwide Healing Hands.”

Charlyn Belluzzo
Member of the Board, San Francisco, CA, USA

Charlyn Belluzzo MBA PhD ScD is an internationally recognized global health expert, holding a doctorate in public health and tropical medicine. She has earned graduate degrees and post-graduate training from LaSalle University, the University of Colorado School of Business, Georgetown University School of Medicine and Tulane University of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Her professional passion is to promote human health and wellness, strengthen communities, generate economic prosperity and enrich the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.