A surgeon at Mount Desert Island Hospital, whose humanitarian work includes providing surgical services to disadvantaged, underserved South American populations, has been selected as this year’s Maine Hospital Association Caregiver of the Year.

Charlie Hendricks, MD, chief of surgery at the hospital, exemplifies MDI Hospital’s core values of compassion, community, improvement, integrity, respect and teamwork, according to the nomination sent in by Arthur Blank, the hospital CEO.  “Charlie Hendricks always finds time for needed consultations, procedures and surgeries,” said Edward Gilmore, MD.  “He frequently practices after hours and on weekends to provide timely, needed care for patients.”

Dr. Hendricks established the Hancock County Medical Mission in 1989 to provide surgical services in South America.  For the past 25 years, he has used personal time to travel there to perform surgery.  His humanitarian work has inspired countless area medical professionals and others in the community to donate their time to his cause.  Dr. Hendricks also founded a scholarship program that funds the medical mission trip for high school students throughout Hancock County. 

Dr. Hendricks cares just as much about his local patients.  Emergency Room Supervisor Jean Young, RN, recalled many occasions on which Dr. Hendricks’ special attention to care led to better outcomes for patients.  “We were seeing a patient that needed to receive a chemotherapy that was very irritating and potentially nerve and muscle damaging, and the patient’s veins were very difficult to access,” she said.  “I called Charlie and asked him to put in a tunneled catheter for safe medication administration.  He was very agreeable to helping out the patient, but said that unfortunately he would have to perform the procedure before 6 a.m. the next morning because he was leaving for a medical mission.  I said, ‘that’s not a problem, I can have her here at 5 a.m.’  Bless him, he did it, and the patient was able to receive her treatment in a timely and safe manner.”

Because of the requirement that a qualified surgeon be at the hospital during a woman’s labor, many small hospitals were unable to give women the opportunity to have a vaginal birth after having previously delivered via cesarean section (known as a VBAC).  But at MDI Hospital, Dr. Hendricks agreed to be present for the duration of a woman’s labor, despite the challenge of finding time in his busy schedule.  “We were able to set a model for other hospitals in the area that have now followed suit,” said Linda Robinson, CNM.

 Improving women’s health has also been a focal point in the service work performed by the Hancock County Medical Mission. Dr. Hendricks chose to practice in Maine because the quieter pace of life allows him to spend more time getting to know his patients.

“It’s an honor for me to listen to my patients and learn about their lives,” he said.  “These thoughtful aspects require us to make decisions about when to operate.  And then there are the harder aspects: making decisions about when not to operate and explaining these things to the family.  It’s really about honoring people’s lives—especially as they age.”