In 1991, after several volunteer missions to Latin America, anesthesiologist William H. Rosenblatt, M.D., made an observation that was to have far-reaching effects: many of the hospitals he visited were in dire need of medical supplies, while at Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) many of those same supplies were discarded without being used.

Thus was born REMEDY (Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World), a nonprofit committed to recovering surplus medical supplies and teaching others how to do it.

What started as a local program at YNHH to collect opened but unused surgical supplies—which have never touched a patient but can’t be reprocessed due to liability concerns—has grown into a grass-roots organization involving hundreds of hospitals around the United States. From Yale alone, the REMEDY program has donated more than 30 tons of medical supplies to hospitals overseas. “Each of these pieces of material, whether it be a suture, a glove or a sponge, is going to wind up in another part of the world and be useful,” says Rosenblatt. The program has also saved the hospital over $30,000 in disposal costs since its inception, at a cost of only about $200 per year for disinfecting and bagging the supplies.

Today, REMEDY trains hospitals to organize their own programs and has helped 358 hospitals begin recovery activities. The organization provides teaching packets free of charge, and with Yale’s Office of International Health, has developed a notification program called AIRE-mail, in which medical supplies donated by hospitals and vendors are advertised via e-mail to 125 nonprofit humanitarian organizations. It has also developed a catalog called the REMEDY Atlas, consisting of the 240 supplies most often recovered, which will help ensure that recipients are getting supplies they need.

Meanwhile, the collecting, sorting, packing and shipping of surplus medical supplies has largely been taken over by students. In 2001, RYSA (REMEDY at Yale Students Association) was started by Jonathan S. Cohen, PA-C, a physician associate who is now a surgical resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Between last August and January, RYSA volunteers shipped 3,500 pounds of supplies from the New Haven area to eight countries. Information about the program is available on the Web at www.remedyinc.org.