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Arizona surgeons volunteer in developing country

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(Source: Misti Layne) (Source: Misti Layne)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ (CBS5) -

Remember as a child, the school nurse checking to see if you have scoliosis? Well, that's an exam children in the Dominican Republic don't have, and if they do have scoliosis, it goes unchecked and untreated.

That situation is something Scottsdale spine surgeon Dr. Duane Pitt is trying to improve.

"The scoliosis continues to grow unabated and many of these kids will grow up with restrictive lung disease and other medical problems directly related to their scoliosis," Pitt says.

He first became aware of the health crisis when he traveled to the impoverished area in 2010 an found close to 100 patients with limited access to healthcare needing large, reconstructive surgeries.

"We left a lot of people behind with a lot of major deformities," Pitt added.

Because of that, Pitt created the International Surgical Foundation, a nonprofit organization that takes a team of Arizona medical volunteers to the Dominican Republic once a year to do a full week of hours-long intense surgeries.

The result, he says, is life-changing for the doctors and patients.

"When we go down now, the people there know us as the Arizona group and when we show up, it's placed Arizona on the map in the Dominican Republic. Santiago, specifically. It also gives our people here, the volunteers, an opportunity to see something other than healthcare in America but what it's like in other countries," says Pitt.

The mission, including equipment, costs about $180,000. Funding comes from private donations and fundraisers like the Oct. 12, 2013 "Diamond and Dice" event at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Click here to learn more about the event.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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