Most physicians go out of their way for their patients. But there’s one doctor in Taber, Alberta, who likes to go completely out of his way for his.
Dr. Ryan Torrie is a family doctor and self-described “general surgery guy” who, along with his colleagues, performs everything from C-sections to endoscopies for 17,000 of the 20,000 citizens of Taber, Alberta. He’s no different than other rural doctors who often have to take on a larger scope of work in their communities due to a lack of specialists in the area.
“I’ll see up to 42 patients in one day,” says Dr. Torrie, who runs from the OR to his clinic, and back again. “I have a nurse prepping the patient, and at the same time, a medical office assistant getting general practice patients into [examination] rooms.”
On top of his daily routine (which is anything but) and the many research projects he’s involved with, Dr. Torrie is also the president and founder of the TANGO Foundation. TANGO, which stands for Taber Assisting Nations through Global Outreach, is a charitable organization that provides medical services and support to remote communities in third-world countries. The organization is completely voluntary. Members fundraise throughout the year and make medical trips of up to two weeks to remote sites in Mexico, Peru, Fiji, Guatemala and other countries.
“We started talking about it in the OR,” says Dr. Torrie. “Our desire was to be an organization that provides professional services. At the core of our trips are general surgery, cataract surgery, general dentistry and optometry.”
What’s even more remarkable is that they travel with all their equipment on commercial flights. “Our machines, anesthetics, equipment, surgery gear, dental supplies, etc. We have hockey bags full of everything, so we can pull into random rural areas and set up fully in 30 minutes to start taking patients.” Since 2013, the TANGO team has made ten trips, each one an adventure. “Some of our most dramatic experiences involve cataract surgery,” explains Dr. Torrie. “It’s the number one cause of blindness in the developing world.”
“On our last trip to Guatemala, we saw a 42-year-old man who was completely blind, had 8 or 9 kids, and couldn’t work. His kids were begging on the streets to help feed the family. We came in and were able to fix both eyes in one week. He sees 20/20 now. He walked out of there jumping up and down because he could see again. It was a phenomenal experience, and this happens all week long when we go.”
In Fiji, people wait for Dr. Torrie and his team. “Sometimes they won’t see a doctor during the year because they’re afraid of their local care. They look forward to having us come and we look forward to going. It’s quite an addictive feeling.”
Needless to say, Dr. Torrie is dedicated to going above and beyond for his patients at home – and around the world.
TANGO’s next trip is to Guatemala in November and they’re already planning a trip to South Africa in May 2020. For more information, click here.