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Our Story

The University of Kentucky Shoulder to Shoulder Global (STSG) program began in 2002, when Dr. Tom Young, Professor of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, led the first medical brigade to Ecuador with a small group of six committed participants who wanted to make a difference. Just four years later, the group had expanded to over 30 participants. 

In 2006, a planning team composed of UK faculty, staff and students and community partners began planning for a comprehensive community development project in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, Ecuador. The first phase was the development of a primary care health center in the community of Carlos Ruiz Burneo (CRB), a very poor community on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. In April of 2007 the health center was opened, called Centro Medico Hombro a Hombro (CMHH) (Shoulder to Shoulder Health Center). CMHH provides medical care, prevention services, oral health, and school-based services in the community. The CMHH employs local staff, including a general medical practitioner, a nurse, a dentist, a social worker and support personnel who work as a team to improve the health of patients who seek medical or dental care or preventive services. 

Since 2007, the nature of the brigades has evolved into larger multidisciplinary groups and a renewed focus on community engagement. In the summer of 2008, Professors Young and Hopenhayn led two brigades of approximately 45 participants each, one in May and one in August. In 2009, the May and August Brigades were repeated, and a new, smaller UK-Sponsored program with physical therapy students and faculty began in March. The health center’s name also changed from the CMHH to CSHH (Centro de Salud Hombro a Hombro).

In 2016, a June pilot brigade was started with help from the Communication Sciences and Disorders program. 17 participants visited the Escuela Julio Jaramillo and the children’s home “Casa Hogar de Jesús,” where students presented topics on nutrition, hygiene, and drug prevention. Additionally, students performed hearing tests and speech therapy for children. 

As of 2017, four brigades of at least 40 participants travel to Ecuador in March, May, June and August. 

The STSG program is providing clinical and preventive services in three locations in Ecuador, which serve as sites for the UK-led brigades. In addition to the services at the CSHH, partnerships have been established with the Tsáchilas people, a traditional indigenous group from the Santo Domingo area who live in small, isolated rural communities outside the city limits. The brigades also provide services in Plan de Vivienda, an impoverished community located near the CSHH. 

Our Founder Dr. Tom Young

Dr. Thomas L. Young, a University of Kentucky College of Medicine professor of pediatrics, had dreams from a young age of emulating Albert Schweitzer, an early 1900s medical missionary.  In 2002, Young led the first medical brigade to Ecuador with a small group of six committed participants who wanted to make a difference. In 2009, he led an exploratory brigade to Mayasandra, India. 
 
Dr. Thomas L. Young, MD received his medical degree from the University of Louisville, School of Medicine. He completed a pediatric residency at Riley Children’s Hospital at the University of Indiana. He completed a fellowship in community pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 
 
He is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Executive Council on School Health and leads the UK Pediatric Global Health Program.