A line about 500 people deep forms outside a clinic in Guatemala each time surgeons arrive for a mission trip to help people with orthopedic ailments. Many of the Guatemalans travel 100 miles to wait, knowing only a lucky 50 or so will get to see the U.S. doctors. Watching this unfold firsthand motivated Zimmer Biomet employees to change how the company helps Guatemalans. The Warsaw-based orthopedic manufacturer is making its biggest commitment ever to work in the mission field—helping many more Guatemalans walk by providing Indiana-made devices.

Zimmer Biomet has supported hundreds of mission trips for decades by donating orthopedic implants and surgical instruments, but Vice President and General Manager of Global Knees Todd Davis says it’s typically a “one-off” agreement. Historically, Zimmer Biomet would support a single mission trip, meaning the equipment would need to arrive at a specific time and surmount logistical headaches, such as clearing customs unscathed—a difficult task for delicate, high-tech orthopedic implants.

Determined to make a “greater level” impact, Zimmer Biomet’s Global Knees team is leading the charge to completely shift how the manufacturer supports charitable organizations. The company recently inked its first long-term partnership agreement with Texas-based Faith in Practice, representing a commitment that’s bigger, longer—and ideally—more meaningful.

“Rather than a shipment that’s supposed to get there during the window of a [mission] team arriving, [Faith in Practice] will have [Zimmer Biomet devices] in-country, stocked and stored in their warehouse in Guatemala,” says Davis. “This enables them with much more assurance to schedule a mission trip and know everything is going to be there waiting for them. We think their numbers will increase, because they’re not going to be living hand-to-mouth, wondering if they’re going to get donations to cover upcoming trips.”

Zimmer Biomet will supply Indiana-made orthopedic devices and instruments for Faith in Practice to perform total knee replacements at two hospitals in Guatemala, the country where the organization does its work. Davis says, typically, only the most affluent Guatemalans would have access to such orthopedic procedures, which are commonplace in the U.S.

The first installment of the surgical equipment is worth about half-a-million dollars. A single total knee device costs about $5,000, and Faith in Practice implants about 30 knees on each week-long trip. Zimmer Biomet will replenish the supply after each trip.

“When [people in Guatemala] are no longer able to walk, they become a huge burden to their families and their communities. This enables them to go back and provide for their families,” says Davis. “In many cases, this allows them to go back to work and take care of their family members. That’s where we get a lot of joy in seeing that happen.”

In addition to supplies, Zimmer Biomet also has a personal presence; two employees travel to Guatemala to support each Faith in Practice mission trip. 

“They’re there to act as the knee experts on those instruments and implants, because those surgeons may have never used a Zimmer Biomet knee before,” says Davis. “This gives us people in-country to help those surgeries run smoothly. And it’s just a great experience for our team members; they come away super charged by what we’re doing there.”

Global Knees is the first Zimmer Biomet team to launch a long-term partnership of this kind with a charitable organization. Davis believes other departments may follow suit; he says implants for trauma and hip replacements are the biggest needs for underserved areas.

“You hope you never get to this point, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the parts we design, make and sell are going in people,” says Davis. “We’re a manufacturing facility first and foremost, and we’re making widgets. This makes those widgets come to life.”

Davis says Zimmer Biomet’s Global Knees team is “super charged” about the company’s efforts in Guatemala.

Davis says a presentation to Zimmer Biomet employees by Mick Ebeling, the creator of Not Impossible Labs, inspired the project with Faith in Practice.

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