Fall 2012

Catcher trades glove for scrubs



Feature Image
Mike Danaher suctions fluids away from the incision as an orthopedic surgeon repairs an arm that is fractured near the elbow. Danaher was first assistant — the surgeon's right-hand man — in a dozen operations while he was in Kenya.

While some people spend their lives searching for their true calling, Mike Danaher found his in high school.

Through New Visions, a program that allows students to combine high school with career exploration, he observed a variety of medical professions at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. The day he stepped into the operating room, the Vestal High School senior found his purpose.

“Observing doctors helping all the patients gave me a sense of purpose that I could possibly do this with my life — and that was meaningful for me,” he says. “When I was in the operating room, I could see myself in the shoes of the doctors.”

Today, the Binghamton University senior and catcher for the Bearcats baseball team is a pre-med major and aspiring orthopedic surgeon, a field that combines his two passions: caring for others and athletics.

“I want to keep sports close to my life,” he says. “I needed something that challenged me physically and mentally, while at the same time gave me a sense of purpose.”

That passion grew stronger when he traveled to Kenya earlier this year as part of a medical mission. He spent two weeks at Kikuyu Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Centre assisting with surgical procedures — something he wouldn’t be able to do in the United States until his residency. He suctioned blood, retracted bones, drilled screws and tied sutures.

“I didn’t realize I’d be able to do that much; I didn’t realize I had the capability,” he says. “I learned so much more than I could have
imagined.”

Dr. Douglas Kerr, an orthopedic surgeon and volunteer physician for University teams for 28 years, facilitated the trip. Since 2007, Kerr has been leading medical missions to Kenya as president of the Wilson Rehabilitation Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides orthopedic care to indigent patients in Third-World countries, among other initiatives.

“My heart has become more and more involved,” Kerr says. “In my belief, God calls me to do these things.”

Danaher is the second Binghamton student Kerr has taken to Kenya. Educating students and seeing them excel is what keeps Kerr involved, he says, and motivates him in his mission to improve orthopedic care in the Third World.

“When you’re around these kids long enough, you believe in their purpose,” Kerr says. “Mike’s a great kid. I think he’ll be a great doctor. It was fun to see the joy in him realizing what a great thing it is to serve others and be in orthopedics. It makes me proud of him.”

For Danaher, the experience further solidified his desire to become a doctor.

“I feel like I have so much more purpose and that what I’m doing is for legitimate reasons,” he says. “It opened my eyes to how important medicine is. To perform a surgery in Kenya, it’s like you’re giving them their lives back … You can just see it in their eyes. I haven’t graduated yet, and I already helped all these people.”

– Carla Kucinski ‘02