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01 Mar 2018

Changing lives across the world


Three decades of volunteer work, forty-six overseas trips, several hundred medical cases that changed the lives of thousands, is the legacy of one of the founding members of Open Heart International, Russell Lee, who has now retired from the volunteer healthreach organisation first started from the San in 1985.

As a Project Coordinator for Open Heart International, Russell led OHI’s international projects to Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Rwanda, Tanzania and PNG that helped thousands of people of all ages including children suffering from potentially fatal heart disease.

It was in early 1980s that Rudi Morgan, Dr John Wallace and Russell undertook the first ‘Operation Open Heart for Tonga’ medical and surgical trip to operate on residents of Tonga with rheumatic heart disease.

By 1985, the project formally became a volunteer driven organisation ‘Open Heart International’ coordinating surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals who freely gave their time and expertise across multiple surgical specialties to transform the lives of thousands of disadvantaged men, women and children living in developing countries.

Today OHI’s work spans several continents empowered by world-renowned surgeons and medical professionals saving lives by undertaking or providing free operations or treatments.

OHI president, Michael Were says Russell has left a legacy that will be hard to match.

“OHI will be forever grateful for Russell’s passion and drive.

He has been the most involved in PNG with over 23 projects and over 900 cases. We thank Russell for his dedication and passion over the past 30 years; he has left massive shoes to fill.”

Russell was recipient of Order of Australia award (AO) in 2012 for his distinguished service to the international community through the development of humanitarian aid programs, particularly as Founder of Operation Open Heart, and to professional nursing organisations.


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