(Photo by Don Kadair)
CRAIG CASTLEMAN GREENE
“People either want to give their time, their talent or their treasure,” says Dr. Craig Greene. He does all three.
Greene is a trauma surgeon, chief of surgery at Our Lady of the Lake and a member of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association. It may seem a stretch that he was a high school youth pastor and had once considered ministry as a profession, but to Greene, surgery and spirituality are much the same.
His path began when he was a walk-on at LSU. “I can say I was on the football team, but ‘play’ is probably an overstatement. I did rehab and sat on the sidelines. I got injured in practice and had six knee surgeries, and after a while I thought, ‘This is pretty interesting.’”
At that point, Greene says he wasn’t sure whether he was going to go to seminary or pursue medicine. But he got some very good advice. “Actually my coach at the time told me, ‘You know, Craig, the call of God on your life doesn’t change based on what you choose to do for a living.’” So when he got accepted to medical school, Greene felt like that was what he needed to do. “I can make this a mission too: It’s the same heartbeat,” he says. “And sure enough, there are more opportunities.”
His experience following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was pivotal. “I had received this call: ‘There’s an orphanage and there are 25 kids with broken bones, and their biggest need is an orthopaedic surgeon. Can you leave tomorrow?’” he recalls. “And so I felt like my whole life I had been preparing for this moment. Growing up we used to sing this song in church where the chorus is ‘Yes, Lord.’ No matter what the question is, the answer to it is yes. I was thankful for my training. So I called up a buddy of mine who is like-minded and said, ‘Hey what are you doing this weekend?’ And he answered, ‘Oh, nothing, why?’ And I said, ‘Let’s go to Haiti!’”
From that trip, Greene began a charitable fund through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and formed the Greene Team, whose mission is to provide humanitarian aid in times of disaster around the world. In addition to Haiti, Greene has served in Africa and Colombia and hopes to go to India and Honduras. “People want to give something that they know where it’s going to go,” he says. “But we never want to have any hint of impropriety, and through BRAF there is good control. But now how can we get more people involved?”
The Greene Team accepts monetary donations through the foundation and collects and stores boots, crutches and other medical supplies for missionary work. “I’m sure for the next disaster we won’t have it perfect, but we will be more ready than we were before,” Greene says.
And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. “My mom is the quintessential volunteer. One of the reasons I got excited about my foundation is that I think it really encompasses her spirit.” And Greene’s father’s influence may lead him down a different path one day. “My dad ran for governor and was a senator. So I have considered politics in the future. But I don’t want to do that with the feeling that I have to do this to matter—only if it’s my turn to give.
“I think volunteering is contagious, especially when it involves some of the greatest sacrifice,” Green says. “There are opportunities all around. But you don’t see them when you’re looking at yourself.”
“I’ve also realized that if I’m going to travel halfway around the world and treat people for free under the term ‘mission,’ I need to do the same thing here,” he adds. “I can’t say, ‘Give me your credit card first.’ We just treat the person as our calling. We do the right thing and everything works out.”
“I end up working harder on the mission field sometimes than here doing orthopaedic surgery. I always feel guilty leaving because there is still so much more to do. But I really think I’m where I’m supposed to be in life.”
TO LEARN ABOUT the Greene Team and how to donate or get involved, visit greenecharity.com. Follow Greene on Twitter @craigcgreenemd.