In a few weeks I will be making my ninth trip to Honduras to join other physicians in providing free medical care to about 2,000 patients.

Dr. Annette Zaharoff last year with staff members on a mission trip to Honduras. This year marks Dr. Z’s 9th trip to the Central American nation.

I’m proud of the work we accomplish on this volunteer trip, organized by the Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation. I serve on the board of this non-profit organization, which has trained thousands of physicians worldwide in the latest in prolotherapy techniques.

Prolotherapy is an injection therapy treatment that uses dextrose, a sugar naturally produced by the body, to help heal injuries and reduce pain. It’s been around for decades but it’s still considered cutting-edge treatment that has greatly relieved joint pain and helped repair soft tissue injuries.

The Foundation has made 46 annual mission trips to Honduras. Last year, we brought together some 70 physicians and staff from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Turkey and South and Central America. We set up three clinics in the towns of La Ceiba, Olanchito and Tela – trips that required long bus rides after long plane trips followed by a long afternoon and evening of setting up our makeshift procedure rooms.

We will return to those communities again next month. But the payoff comes when we help people who came to our clinics from far-away villages, farms and towns. Some walk miles to get treatment for their feet, ankles, shoulders, elbows and back.

Many are people who rely on their bodies to survive – working in fields or transporting water by buckets to make their evening meals. Last year, there were many familiar faces, people who have returned for treatment from years past because they re-aggravated old injuries or have new ones. And our payment often came in the form of a piece of fruit or hugs. I’m looking forward to re-uniting with some of these patients, and meeting new ones.

Yet as rewarding as the actual clinic work was, equally rewarding was the work we did in our “off” hours. As co-clinical director, I helped coordinate and organize an educational curriculum for medical staff. We had two lectures every day, and on Saturday we held a conference workshop that included hands-on training on how to perform prolotherapy injections, diagnose injuries and more.

At the Hackett Hemwall Patterson Foundation, we are developing a standardized curriculum that will be taken globally to serve as a model for prolotherapy training. Think about it: Prolotherapy is a relatively quick, simple and cost-effective procedure for treating soft-tissue injuries. By helping develop a standard of learning and training for healthcare professionals, we hope to make it a game-changer in developing nations.

We can positively impact hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and build upon an already impressive legacy that has made the Foundation a go-to resource for anyone who is serious about pain management and non-surgical alternatives to musculoskeletal treatment.

And while we are creating this curriculum, we will continue our mission trips to Honduras, Mexico and elsewhere to bring prolotherapy treatment to people who could not otherwise afford it. It’s made for some great Spring Break memories, and I expect it will make for many more to come.

To learn more about the Hackett Hemwall Foundation, visit And don’t forget to like them on Facebook at