Free scoliosis surgery for underserved teens

by Duncan Tree Foundation
(L) Nurse Douglas (R) Tischelle Sutherland
(L) Nurse Douglas (R) Tischelle Sutherland

                Can you imagine an extreme discomfort you’ve experienced in the past? If you can’t, think of the last toothache you had. Remember how uncomfortable you were once the pain hit you and how urgent you were to have it go away, taking whatever painkillers you could get in order to feel even slightly better.

Now imagine this same pain and the same urgent feeling lasting for three years. Imagine not having access to pain killers or money for a medical professional. Imagine the tasks you do every day and how much harder it would be to accomplish them wracked with pain. Would you be as happy if you knew you had to wake up every day in pain? Luckily, you probably don’t have to experience this; however, there are some people who do. Many people in other countries don’t have the same luxury of painkillers and affordable medical treatment. Tischelle Sutherland, a 13-year-old Jamaican girl, is one of them. But instead of a toothache, Tischelle experiences pain that is much worse. She and many children like her experience curvature in their spine, known as scoliosis, where the spine can take on a C- or even an S-shape.

These curves cause immense pain, sometimes starting really young in life. As the child grows up, the curve worsens and the parents are left to helplessly watch as their child’s quality of life deteriorates. In most cases, parents can’t afford the expensive surgery. The only thing they can do is try to get on a waiting list at Kingston Public Hospital Cornwall Regional Hospital and wait for the Duncan Tree Foundation team to provide free surgery.Once the child makes it onto this list, the rest should be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, it isn’t in every case. Take Tischelle, for example.

          Like other children with scoliosis, Tischelle had to experience scoliosis back pain for years, during which she looked and felt different from all the other kids her age. She finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel as she worked her way up to the top of the waiting list, getting excited yet slightly nervous about the surgery date. Finally, the day came for Tischelle, the day she would become a different person—one who feels normal and happy with who she is. But before the day she had been waiting so long for arrived, she hit an iceberg—two icebergs. There were two patients with emergencies who had to be treated before her.

Imagine waiting your whole life for something, then finally being able to see it, and reach out for it, and watch it get pulled away from you. As frustrating as this experience was for Tischelle, all she could do was wait. Like the captain of a sinking ship, Tischelle had to wait for all her passengers to get safely off before allowing herself to be saved. Tischelle Sutherland received her surgery in July 2016. Not only did she survive the wait; she’s thriving thanks to donors like you.

          Tischelle’s story is all too common: years of waiting for elective spine surgery that would alter the course of her life. 

          Would you be so kind as to help to shorten waiting times of years to months, if not weeks, by supporting Duncan Tree Foundation’s Scoliosis Care Fund in Jamaica and in the Philippines? Since 2012, the Duncan Tree Foundation, with the support of our corporate sponsors Medtronic Spine and NuVasive Clinical Services (formerly Biotronic) and our local partners have helped over 103 young people get off of the waiting list. With your help, we can do much more. There are an estimated 90,000 Jamaican adolescents and an estimated 3 million Filippino adolescents who suffer from scoliosis.

          Your tax-deductible gift in any amount will be appreciated, especially by patients like Tischelle.

DTF team in OR
DTF team in OR
Dr. Paonessa examining patient xray
Dr. Paonessa examining patient xray


DTF patient, Danisha, post surgery at CRH
DTF patient, Danisha, post surgery at CRH

The Duncan Tree Foundation has had a very productive summer advancing our mission to bring pain relieving and life-extending spine surgeries to young patients in need worldwide.

In June we made our eighth successful mission trip to Jamaica increasing our number of cases performed there to 81. With the 9 cases we’ve performed in the Philippines, we are so very close to reaching our 100 patient milestone. We are excited to accomplish that goal when we return to Jamaica this fall.

We were also happy to visit with Duncan Tree Patients who underwent surgery on prior mission trips and check in on their progress. It is always so uplifting to see not just their physical transformation, but their growing confidence and self esteem.

            “For the first time in a long time I can touch my toes.”

                                    Jerdain, 18

                                    Duncan Tree Patient

                                    Surgery performed November 2015

 On June 24th, The Duncan Tree Foundation leadership was honored to meet with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Chief of Staff Deborah Newland. The Prime Minister was truly grateful for our service and thanked us on behalf of the People of Jamaica. We look forward to strengthening our relationship with The Prime Minister and accomplishing more in trips to come.

We thank you for your continued support and appreciate your generous contributions. Each donation helps us cover the expenses of the highly skilled teams who volunteer their time and talents to perform these invaluable services. So far, we have been able to make a real difference in the lives of 90 young people. Together we can all help relieve the pain and boost the spirits of so many more.

To learn more about Duncan Tree Foundation events and initiatives, please visit

DTF June 2016 team at Cornwall Regional Hospital
DTF June 2016 team at Cornwall Regional Hospital
Ouida Duncan with JA Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Ouida Duncan with JA Prime Minister Andrew Holness


Duncan Tree Founder and President, Ouida Duncan, at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay shaking hands with Dr. Forrester during a medical mission trip to Jamaica

"One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals." -Michael Korda

The Duncan Tree Foundation (DTF) isn’t showing any signs of slowing down after another productive start to the year! The team is two months away from yet another life-changing mission trip to Jamaica to perform spine corrective surgeries for disenfranchised youth. To date, DTF had performed 80 surgeries valued at over $2,000,000 (USD) and this upcoming June is projected to reach its 100th patient milestone. It goes without saying that the impact these surgeries have had on the fortunate recipients is priceless. Not only has DTF brought great joy to the deserving youth of Jamaica and their families, but also to the lives of the DTF volunteers and surgeons who have dedicated their time and efforts in making each medical mission a success.We invite everyone to hear first-hand from patients and DTF’s dedicated staff on our YouTube Channel.

In an effort to further promote these powerful stories, DTF launched its Young Professional Network (YPN) initiative this past March. Members of YPN are encouraged to engage their personal networks to further promote DTF and share the stories of the lives DTF has changed. YPN members will be involved in organizing fundraiser events and various support initiatives for DTF patients and their families. Be on the lookout for exciting mixers and fun get-togethers on behalf of YPN!

Always looking for new opportunities to learn, improve, and grow, DTF members participated in the annual Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University on April 16th and 17th. The conference was an impactful experience filled with informative lectures and interactive workshops form leaders and change agents in global health. Highlights include sessions and workshops such as:

  • Delivering Leadership in Non-profits
  • Self-Awareness for Leadership in Service & Action
  • What Now? A Decision-Making Framework for the Social Sector Leader
  • Taking Your Social Venture to Scale: A Workshop and Framework on Transformative Growth
  • Incubating successful Social Enterprises and Global Health Programs

Needless to say, the team left the conference enlightened and empowered with new ideas for developing Duncan Tree.
Send your best wishes and prayers our way as the team prepares to embark on its 8th medical mission to Jamaica this June, and of course please continue to support us by making a donation. Without your support, none of this is possible.

To learn more about Duncan Tree Foundation events and initiatives, please visit

DTF volunteers provide CME credits for local staff
DTF volunteers provide CME credits for local staff

2016 is off to a great start for the Duncan Tree Foundation (DTF) as we have
been busy planning for two upcoming mission trips to Jamaica. Volunteer teams
will travel in June and November to provide free spine surgery to pediatric
patients in need.

A projected 20 life-changing surgeries are scheduled to be performed by
volunteers led by orthopedic spine surgeon and DTF Vice President, Dr. Kenneth
Paonessa. The Team, under the guidance of DTF Founder and President, Ouida
Duncan, will visit three local facilities: Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), Cornwall
Regional Hospital (CRH), and Bustamante Children’s Hospital (BCH).  BCH is a new medical mission site for the Duncan Tree Foundation in 2016.

A continued emphasis for the Team will also be placed on the effort to provide
continuing education courses for local professionals. Since inception, DTF
volunteers have provided close to 400 Continuing Medical Education
(CME) certificates.  DTF’s investment in the professional development of
local professionals is supplying the skills necessary to providing a higher quality of
patient care.

To support these efforts, DTF staff and volunteers are busy planning several
fund raising events. The first, set to take place on Friday, January 29, will
welcome more than 75 guests to Prime 82 in Norwich, CT for Boogie Down with
Duncan Tree Foundation, a 70s disco night! Guests will enjoy open bar, food, silent
auction, and more as they don their finest 70s attire. For tickets, please

Later this spring, DTF will host its annual spring social, a volunteer
appreciation night, and a young professionals networking cocktail event.

To learn more about Duncan Tree Foundation events and initiatives, please visit

Join us on January 29 in Norwich, CT.
Join us on January 29 in Norwich, CT.


Founder, Ouida Duncan, with volunteers.
Founder, Ouida Duncan, with volunteers.

Duncan Tree Foundation volunteers are preparing for an upcoming mission trip to Jamaica in November of 2015!  The group will travel for one week to perform 14 scheduled surgeries on pediatric patients in need.

"This will be our second trip to Jamaica in 2015 and ninth trip to Jamaica since the inception of our Scoliosis Care Fund Program," said DTF Founder and President, Ouida Duncan.  "We have 13 volunteers traveling, including representatives from our corporate partners, Medtronic and Biotronic."

During the trip, volunteers will visit Kingston Public Hospital to perform ten complex spine surgeries.  They then will travel to Cornwall Regional Hospital to complete four more.  Volunteers will meet with patients and their families for pre-operative review and will provide assistance and support as needed throughout the entire process.  All surgeries are expected to be life changing for these patients who suffer from scoliosis and other spine deformities.

To support this mission trip, DTF was busy the past several months hosting fund raising events, including the first annual Set Sail for Scoliosis: A Sunset Cruise on the Mystic River.  More than 50 guests joined us in beautiful Mystic, Connecticut for cocktails and a breathtaking sail on the Mystic River.  In total, more than $8,500 was raised to support Duncan Tree Foundation initiatives.

Scheduled for Friday, October 30, Duncan Tree Foundation will host its Scoliosis Care Fund Fall Benefit Gala in New York City.  This event will welcome over 75 guests as they network and learn more about DTF initiaitves.  For tickets and more information, please click here.

Thank you for your continued support of our work to provide free spine surgery to patients in need.  To learn more about Duncan Tree Foundation, please visit us at

A former Duncan Tree Patient with volunteers
A former Duncan Tree Patient with volunteers



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Organization Information

Duncan Tree Foundation

Location: Jamaica, New York - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Ouida Duncan
President & Founder
Jamaica, New York United States
$7,085 raised of $95,000 goal
122 donations
$87,915 to go
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