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March 7, 2020

7 Days with Dr. Chester Griffiths: Mission to Guatemala

by Zara Jethani

Committed to charity efforts throughout his career, Chester F. Griffiths, MD, FACS, has sought out opportunities to bring his considerable surgical skills to aiding the less fortunate.

One of the four founders of Pacific Neuroscience Institute, an affiliate of Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Dr. Griffiths is Director of the Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center. He is a longtime advocate of bringing high-quality health care to underserved populations, and volunteers as an ENT surgeon at the Venice Family Clinic treating the uninsured both as a consultant and performing surgical procedures pro-bono. In recognition of his service, he was honored with the Morton K. Rubenstein Award for Outstanding Volunteer Physician.

He is currently on the Board of Directors of the Venice Family Clinic striving to continue the access for the uninsured to receive healthcare.

Mission to Guatemala

Regardless of national boundaries, compassionate service to all has been a part of the mission of the Providence Health System since the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange began their work to touch lives wherever relief, comfort and care are needed most.

On his seven-day mission to Guatemala in September 2019, Dr. Griffiths performed an astounding 28 ENT surgeries in 4 days.

These surgeries included

  • Removing large neck tumor growths
  • Reconstruction of the nasal cavity and sinuses to allow patients to breathe through their noses and treat chronic sinus infection
  • Tonsillectomies for severe chronic festering infections
  • Releasing tongue ties to allow children to speak normally just to name a few of the procedures

He was one of four surgeons including two general surgeons, and a gynecologist and five anesthesiologists, with over 30 volunteer nurses, rehabilitation specialists, medical assistants and support staff.

“One impressive area of service was the delivery and instruction on use of wheelchairs and walkers to the population that were immobile where their only means of transportation was being carried by family members,” said Dr. Griffiths.

Over 125 wheelchairs and walkers were distributed.

“The passion and enthusiasm of all who participated was infectious and heartwarming, reinvigorating the spirit of the privilege physicians have to care for humanity without boarders or prejudice,” Dr. Griffiths commented. “Patients and families were so touched and truly appreciative, one stating, ‘I had doubts but now I realize how special and caring Americans are, you all have renewed my faith.’”

Another patient rejoiced after surgery, having suffered for nearly 30 years from persistent tonsil infections with weekly fevers, difficulty swallowing and severe bad breath with difficulty breathing, “El Diablo esta afora – the Devil is gone.”

Each morning at 6 am all participants gathered to receive a daily reflection by picking random inspirational words out of a basket.

“Love, Strength, Gratitude, Dignity, Honesty, were the words I received to center the mission,” said Dr. Griffiths. “My goal thereafter has been to continue this spirit in my daily life albeit difficult with all the distractions we have in our lives.”

Kate Jorgenson, International Partnership Program Specialist at Providence St Joseph Health Global Partnerships served as the photojournalist on this mission. “I thank Dr. Griffiths for his huge heart and service.”

In Guatemala, one of the neediest countries in the Latin America region, preventable illnesses are the leading causes of death for children under age five, and medical or surgical care is very difficult to access.

“Surgical teams traveling with ‘Faith in Practice’ minister to needs of patients across the country. Using a community-focused approach to achieve the greatest impact where it is needed most, public health and village medical work is focused in the municipality of Chicamán, El Quiché. This work gets right to the root causes of serious health risks for adults and children, creating sustainable solutions for long-term change, as well as responds to immediate health needs.”

A board-certified Otolaryngologist (ENT), Head and Neck Surgeon and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles California, Dr. Griffiths has an extensive 25-year experience treating patients with a wide range of conditions.

His specialty practice includes:

  • Treatment of sleep apnea
  • Snoring, difficulty breathing
  • Disorders of the larynx
  • Thyroid tumors and other head
  • Neck cancers with an emphasis on viral HPV related cancers.

“Giving back in any manner reaffirms one’s purpose and is a calming elixir for the soul,” Dr. Griffiths explained. “We all have a responsibility to care for each other, I am blessed to have been given the opportunity.”

About the Author

Zara Jethani, MS, MBA

Zara Jethani

is the marketing director at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. Her background is in molecular genetics research and healthcare marketing. In addition, she is a graphic designer with more than 20 years experience in the healthcare, education and entertainment industries.

Last updated: March 23rd, 2020