Featured Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Rancho Santa Fe doctors return from humanitarian mission

RANCHO SANTA FE — In one of the most remote countries in the world, two doctors from Rancho Santa Fe Audiology flew to the Union of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. Board certified audiologist, Dr. David K. Woodruff and ENT consultant, Dr. Geoffrey A. Smith, both volunteers with Americans Helping Asian Children (AHAC), dedicated their time to help children at the Mary Chapman School for the Deaf in Yangon City.

They spent nearly three weeks there in an effort to help children in need.

It hasn’t been the first time the doctors have helped underprivileged youth in Asian countries — and it won’t be the last.

As doctors, it’s their calling.

“Dr. Woodruff was the force in getting AHAC to go to Burma and to take care of the kids,” Smith said. “Before that, they didn’t have hearing aids.”

Woodruff is the owner and Chief Audiologist of Rancho Santa Fe Audiology.

AHAC is a San Diego-based nonprofit charity founded by R. Bruce Johnson, M.D. of Sharp Rees Stealy Medical Group; and, Woodruff is also on the AHAC board of directors.

The nonprofit helps children in need living with mental and physical disabilities, while addressing poverty issues.

Smith who is semi-retired, said on this trip, they offered hearing exams, took ear mold impressions, did hearing aid fittings, evaluated kids with cochlear implants as well as hearing loss. Individuals from the community also came to see them.

“We brought and provided hearing aids for a good number of kids and some of the adults who had no other means to get them,” Smith said.

The doctors also held classes at the Mary Chapman School for those with hearing loss, caregivers and instructors.

On this trip, it’s estimated the doctors examined and evaluated more than 100 children and adults. In addition to the healthcare, medical equipment and supplies were also donated.

Woodruff, who has been involved with AHAC since 1994, has a deep passion to help the children.

“It’s special working with these children who are so innocent, and basically, like any deaf child in the world, they have no concept of the hearing world,” he said. “They have limited access to none in their country, which is poor of course, and without our help they would be treated as deaf and dumb their entire life.”

By examining these children and providing them with a hearing aid, Woodruff said, this can change their life in developing speech and language.

“Once I saw the first success and the impact we had, it changed my life,” Woodruff said.

While there, the doctors traveled 30 minutes to the town’s only ENT Hospital to assist.

“We spent a half day there seeing their facilities; and, they had some cases and some questions so we consulted,” said Smith, adding how they also helped update courses for medical doctors, nurse practitioners and emergency practitioners.

For Smith, his ongoing memorable experience with the children is giving them their hearing aids for the first time. “Some of these kids that could barely hear or not at all, are suddenly hearing clearly and their expressions are really priceless,” he said.

Both doctors agree in telling people they know to travel to the Union of Myanmar calling it peaceful, and its citizens, very kind.

“I would encourage people to go out of their comfort zone and really explore,” Woodruff said. “It gives you different insight about life and the things we have access to so readily — the more people are able to travel like that, the more they can look at life a little bit differently.”

To learn more about AHAC visit www.ahac.org.