Carol Vernal, a nurse with 40 years experience in the medical arena and corporate world, is Founder and CEO of Children’s Medical Aid Foundation (CMAF). Carol first traveled to Nepal in 1989. Drawn by a deep connection to the country and its people, she has returned there many times since. In 2001 Carol traveled around the world for one year, spending three months in Nepal. During that visit she volunteered with Nepal Trust, a non-governmental organization building medical clinics in remote areas of the high Himalayas. That experience made her keenly aware of the harsh life in rural villages and the children’s vulnerability to illness and disease in the absence of medical care.
In 2003 Carol met Dr. Shankar Rai, a native of Nepal who headed up a Mobile Surgical Team traveling throughout the country to provide corrective surgery for children with cleft lip, cleft palate, and post burn contractures. Carol was deeply moved by the team’s dedication and willingness to put aside their personal comforts in order to be of service to patients’ families who had faced hardships and traveled long distances to bring their children in for surgery.
Seeing a need for treating a variety of other types of congenital defects, Carol formed CMAF in July 2004 to ensure needed resources were available to help the Mobile Surgical Team expand its services and reach more children. In 2005, CMAF received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
Surgical reconstruction offers these children functional and aesthetic benefits, transforming their futures with the hope of a normal childhood and better life. Villagers with post-traumatic injuries, such as ulcerated wounds and disfiguring scars, are also eligible for free surgical treatment.
In 2009, CMAF partnered with Public Health Concern Trust in Nepal (phect-NEPAL) to support Phase I of the Itahari Hospital Project to serve women and children in Eastern Nepal. The land has been purchased and fenced, and architectural plans finished. The hospital is designed to be economically and environmentally sustainable. Carol now spends several months each year in Nepal to continue supporting the Mobile Surgical Team through CMAF’s Corrective Surgery Program, and working with phect-NEPAL and other partners on medical facility development in underserved areas of Nepal.
In 2010, Carol began working the Chisang Service Committee to raise funds and provide planning and logistical support to open a clinic in Bhawanee, a village in rural Eastern Nepal. In April 2012, the Chisang Clinic opened its doors and saw more than 200 patients during its first two weeks of operation. CMAF helped develop plans for the future expansion of the clinic, to include OBGYN services, an on-site pharmacy, and development of kiosk business opportunities to provide local jobs and rent income for the clinic.
In 2007, Carol received the Red Cross Hero Award, and in 2009, was honored by Kathmandu Model Hospital with an Appreciation Award.
Dr. Shankar Rai
Nepal Director, CMAF Corrective Surgery Program
Dr. Shankar Rai is the Nepal Director of Children's Medical Aid Foundation (CMAF) Corrective Surgery Program. In 1993 he volunteered to join a visiting ReSurge (formerly Interplast) team to learn how to do cleft lip and palate reconstructive surgery. Dr. Rai then trained as a plastic surgeon in the U.S. and later became head of ReSurge’s first outreach program in Nepal. He has since performed thousands of surgeries, earning a reputation as one of the leading cleft surgeons in the world. He has dedicated his entire career to performing free surgeries for impoverished children with birth defects.
With support from the nonprofit Model Hospital in Kathmandu, Dr. Rai launched Nepal’s first Mobile Surgical Team to treat a variety of birth defects, including syndactylism (webbed fingers), microtia (ear deformity), disfiguring moles and polydactylism. Dr. Rai collaborated with CMAF to implement the Corrective Surgery Program, which sponsors and promotes the care of children born with congenital defects in remote, rural areas of Nepal.
Awards & Recognition
2005 - World of Children Award - Cardinal Health Children's Care Award Honoree
1994 - Named Outstanding Physician of the Year by The American Medical Association
1994 - Awarded The Nathan Davis Award, a prestigious humanitarian award
Dr. Rai is an Assistant Professor at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, and serves as a board member for the America Nepal Medical Foundation.
Children's Medical Aid Foundation has been operating since July 2005, and received non-profit tax status in 2006. CMAF has developed a sustainable, replicable medical services delivery system that supports development and utilization of locally trained and committed medical staff and volunteers in Nepal. CMAF currently serves about 100 Nepalese children and their families each year through the Corrective Surgery Program.