“The rewards of medicine are multiplied in crisis situations,” says Hernando Garzon. It’s a simple principle that’s guided an extraordinary life. Dr. Garzon’s work as an emergency response physician brought him to Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing, Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and West Africa after the Ebola outbreak. In fact, he’s spent his life plunging into catastrophe, and helping others survive it.
Now the global health program director at Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Garzon has extended his reach by teaching others to do the lifesaving work that has defined his career. He’s developed clinical programs on three continents and routed hundreds of medical residents to disaster sites and human rights flashpoints around the world, all while managing to continue his own disaster-response work. (Most recently he traveled to Puerto Rico after 2017’s devastating hurricane.)
Between his deployments to more than 30 global crisis sites, and his establishment of medical outposts in some of the world’s most underserved communities, Dr. Garzon has saved or improved countless lives. He has been honored throughout his career—in 2001, he received the Red Cross’ Heroes in Healthcare award—but his goal has never been external recognition. “Doing service work, doing disaster work,” he says, “increases the value of our lives.”