What started as a dream for Dr. Michael Christie and his partners at Southern Joint Replacement Institute (SJRI) at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in 2010 has turned into a full-fledged, state-of-the-art nonprofit operation — The Walk Strong Foundation.

The Walk Strong Foundation is a nonprofit medical humanitarian organization which provides knee and hip replacements at no cost to patients in developing and underserved countries. Walk Strong’s medical team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and support volunteers are committed to helping those in need by relieving pain, restoring their mobility, self-dignity, productivity and helping them return to a normal life.

Aiming to give back to another community, SJRI selected Veracruz, Mexico. Veracruz is a city with many hospitals that are in need of assistance. The Specialty Hospital of Veracruz, a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Veracruz, was selected as a partner and host of the Walk Strong Foundation.

“The Specialty Hospital of Veracruz fulfilled the teaching opportunities that met our mission,” said Mary Betty Masters, programs manager with SJRI, speaking to the fact that Veracruz had a university complete with an orthopedic residency program and an anesthesia residency program. There are two nursing schools that do their clinical rotations in the Specialty Hospital of Veracruz.

Years later, the difference being made in Mexico is palpable, thanks to the Walk Strong Foundation and the leadership of Dr. Octavio Amador. Before SJRI started the Walk Strong Foundation in Veracruz, the city did six surgeries a year. A total of 92 joint replacements have been completed since Walk Strong was founded, including 25 joint replacements by Dr. Amador alone — replacements that Masters described as “impeccable.”

“I enjoy sharing the mission with the Walk Strong Foundation,” said Amador. “Southern Joint Replacement Institute thought it could make Walk Strong more successful if they trained a physician from Veracruz. Out of seven physicians who were vetted and interviewed, I am thankful that I was selected for this great opportunity.”

Amador, who is 41-years old and described as a “very patient and community-oriented man,” studied and practiced internal medicine before returning to medical school to studying orthopedics. He spent 12 months (April 2014 through May 2015) in the United States on a 12-month Visa and was an SJRI fellow before returning to Veracruz, where he now manages the total joint patients and is the leader for Veracruz-Walk Strong Foundation.

Amador’s relationship with SJRI and the Walk Strong Foundation has led him to partner with a local women’s Rotary club that helps locate patients who need surgery, provide translation services and also ride assistance to and from appointments for patients.

The original goal of the Walk Strong Foundation was to perform two surgery trips per year with one tractor trailer load of supplies. With a price tag of over $170,000 for one year of mission trips expense, most surgical items and implants are donated in order to make each trip to Veracruz possible.

Since the program’s inception, recovery and pre-operation booklets have been created in Spanish and SJRI also taught the patient’s caregivers and family members about rehab and physical therapy. SJRI also brought enough equipment to the hospital to set up a rehab facility and educate patients on quick recovery practices. Approximately 25-35 people from SJRI travel on each mission.

Support the Walk Strong Foundation on Friday, June 3

The Walk Strong Foundation Charity Golf Scramble will be held at Highland Rim Golf Course located at 1725 New Hope Rd in Joelton, TN on Friday, June 3. To learn more about registration prices and prizes, visit www.walkstrongfoundation.org.