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May 8, 2015
By: Ted Wendel
Kathy Pedersen treating patients in Nepal before the earthquake. Photo by Nick Pedersen.

For Kathy and Don Pedersen, the first reports of a massive earthquake in Nepal were far more than news from a distant land. They left Katmandu only a few short hours before the huge quake destroyed much of the country and threatened the safety of friends they have known for many years.

Don is a physician's assistant and recently retired as a professor emeritus at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He received numerous honors and recognition for his teaching and service to communities of need around the world.

Kathy is also a physician’s assistant(PA) who focused her career on promoting the role of PAs in global health. She works tirelessly around the world in refugee camps, HIV/AIDS clinics, leprosy hospitals and recently with the Manmohan Memorial Teaching Hospital (MMTH) in Katmandu, Nepal.

earlier this year, Don and Kathy led a small group of students from the University of Utah School of Medicine on a trip to Nepal. Photo by Nick Pedersen.

For four weeks in April, Don and Kathy led a small group of students from the University of Utah School of Medicine on a trip to Nepal. This trip was the second visit to Nepal for Don and Kathy. The group spent their time trekking to isolated rural communities in the Himalayas and providing basic healthcare to communities that rarely see healthcare professionals.

As Don and Kathy returned to their home on the morning of April 25, they were greeted with reports of a massive earthquake that devastated the city they just left. They feared for their friends and immediately turned their attention to ways they could help. An immediate return to Nepal was not practical since the country’s airport is stressed by the need to get aid to over 8 million people in the earthquake zone.

Don was able to get a message to one of his friends in Nepal and was relieved to find they were safe, but the hospital resources were depleted. The massive number of casualties exhausted the limited supply of simple things like antibiotics, sterile bandages, IV fluid and syringes.

Don and Kathy searched for a partner with experience and a track record of providing much needed aid in times of crisis. They found Project HOPE. It didn’t take long for them to recognize that Project HOPE has nearly 60 years of experience responding to similar events like the earthquake in Haiti and the South Pacific Tsunami. Don and Kathy reached out to Project HOPE and connected the Project HOPE team in Nepal to their colleagues at MMTH. 

Don and Kathy also provided a financial gift to Project HOPE. Through their foundation, the Don and Kathy Pedersen’s Global Partners Program (Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah) they arranged a gift of $10,000. They knew that Project HOPE could multiply their gift 100 fold and deliver critical medical supplies and a core of volunteers to assists as recovery begins to take hold.

Don is working with Project HOPE to help plan the next stages of response. Don and Kathy are looking forward to returning to Nepal as soon as they can. This impressive husband and wife team are called to help their friends and those communities that they have come to love in a country of striking naturally beauty.

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