No Rotaplast Mission could happen without the selflessness of its medical and non-medical volunteers. If you passed by one of our volunteers on the street, you might not immediately notice his or her kind and generous soul. That’s the amazing part – a Rotaplast is no different that anyone else, except that he or she is willing to take two weeks off of “life as usual”, and go out into the world to help. Please follow the link below to read more about the fabulous people who are working together in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

In the first posting of this trip you met (at least visually) our Mission Director, Brian Walker and the team’s Quarter Master, Dick Burkhalter.

Brian Walker, is a retired marble mason from Garberville, CA and is now on his 8th Rotaplast trip.  He also helps at the San Francisco Rotaplast headquarters 2 days a week plus packs up all the boxes that accompany each team.  Quite a job when you know for the last 2 years Rotaplast has made 15 trips a year.  Another way Brian contributes to a better society is his volunteer time with Habitat for Humanity.  He is valuable to them as well as Rotaplast, as he can do all parts of construction needed.

Dick Burkhalter our beloved Quarter Master, a retired business owner from Orinda, CA, is on his 3rd mission trip all made as the Quarter Master. He puts his engineering, social skills & intelligence to work daily for others, anticipating & taking care of needs even before we know we have them.  Having been to over 100 countries, he also enjoys his mountain home near Redding, his wife, 2 kids and 3 grandchildren.

‘Sandy’ McCulloch, MD, the Medical Director, is on his 12th mission trip along with his wife, Carole McCulloch, RN, our lead recovery nurse. She is on her 11th Rotaplast trip, and they come from Colorado Springs, CO. This is their 3rd trip to Venezuela.  Now that their 6 children are out of the home they find themselves spending more time in their mountain home in Dillon, CO.   Who wouldn’t with Steamboat Springs right down the road and great cross country skiing right out their back door?

Michael Johnston, MD our Lead Anesthesiologist from Kauai, HI has made “around 15” mission trips with Rotaplast.  Working in Lihue, HI, married to “lovely Irene” he enjoys cooking and gardening.  After his Rotaplast trip to Vietnam he stayed on to take a cooking class.  Not only did he bring his special medical skills to the operating room, he brought his soothing Hawaiian music as well.

Here is Mukesh Sahu, MD with his first Rotaplast patient.  Not only is Mukesh getting much experience as he finishes his residency, but greatly adds to the team as an accomplished anesthesiologist. Mukesh has already signed a contract where he will be start this coming summer as part of a 10 person group practice in Folsom, CA.  Although he grew up in Hawaii, after high school he was educated in the University of California system. He enjoys tennis, hiking, camping and singing.

Bryan Stamm, MD is a family practice doc. Jeannie Petro, RN is one of our two recovery nurses. This lovely couple normally resides in Spokane, WA.  In Barquisimeto, Bryan became our Lone pediatrician after Marie “Majka” Tolorava, MD returned to San Francisco, CA.  Bryan and Jeannie are two last-minute additions to the team – and are happy to make this their first Rotaplast mission.   Quoting Jeannie,  “It has been fabulous!!  Certainly, hopefully it will not be our last.”  Dr. Bryan is an avid skier.  Jeannie and Bryan both enjoy biking. Jeannie often bikes the 13 miles to work, then bikes back after putting in a full day as a recovery nurse.  Their sharpei/lab,their 3-legged goldendoodle, plus their calico cat round out their family.

Bill DeShazo, MD is a retired plastic surgeon now happily residing in Richmond, VA, after a successful career in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Bill keeps very active with volunteer work. This mission with us in Venezuela is Dr. Bill’s nineteenth Rotaplast mission trip.  He has 5 adult children, and 7 delightful grandchildren who keep him busy while he pursues his love of gardening. Dr. Bill not only gives his time to Rotaplast, but also does volunteer work with his church.

Carol Hager, our Head Nurse from Erie, PA is on her 15th Rotaplast with 4 similar trips to Mexico with North Western Medical Teams. You can see her at work on this trip in the prior posting as she organizes with the help of her surgical nurses in getting the 3 operating areas ready. To pay the bills she works as a Nurse Practitioner in Trauma & General Surgery but for fun enjoys gardening and her grandchildren.

Sallie Weissinger from Albany, CA, our fabulous interpreter is retired from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco where she was VP of  HR & Public Affairs.  Having spent a year in Spain going to school and living with native speakers while still in her teens, then going on to study Spanish later teaching the language for many years, she is invaluable here in Venezuela.  Although this is her first Rotaplast trip she has been on 2 mission trips to El Salvador through UC Berkeley School of Public Health, and 1 with Berkeley Rotary to Mexico as the interpreter.  She also volunteers at Children’s Hospital working with the Latino families as well as helping private dentists who want to become more proficient in Spanish.  Her picture can be found throughout the blog as she makes herself available to all.  For fun and exercise she hikes with her 2 dogs but can’t even herd her 2 cats nor her friend Kent. Through PAWS she walks a service dog.  Gardening and reading when she isn’t visiting her friends and her other home in New Orleans, LA keeps her busy.


Born in India, Sanat Gandhi, MD now lives and works as an anesthesiologist in Milwaukee, WI.  Although this is Sanat’s 2nd Rotaplast mission trip, he has also taken 2 other medical mission trips to Columbia through the Medical College of Wisconsin.  For fun he likes to travel and read.  His 3 grown children have given him the pleasure of 2 grandchildren.  Above this quiet man graciously allowed me to take his picture in the airport as in the background Bill,  Carol, Michael & Ann can be seen awaiting take off.

Liz Smith is a Rotarian on her 4th Rotaplast mission trip as the medical records person. We also have her to thank in part for the lovely quilts that can be seen through-out this blog.  She is the Mid West rep for ‘Wrap a Smile’ that is responsible for supplying us with a quilt for each child to be used to keep them warm during and after surgery and then as a gift to take home.  She is also a Rotaplast Ambassador for missions and has organized sponsorship for 2 missions out of her District 6400.  Past President of the Detroit Rotary, she is now Assistant DG for District 6400.  At home, Liz works as a graphic and web designer.  For pleasure she quilts and raises puppies for ‘Paws with a Cause’ an organization that trains service dogs.  She now has 2 dogs she calls her own that couldn’t qualify for placement.

‘Joe’ Grasso from Tiburon, CA is now on his 3rd Rotaplast trip, having gone to Nepal & India last year. He is signed up to go to Brazil in July and Ethiopia in November all with this amazing organization.   Joe’s handsome face is seen earlier in this blog holding a little girl trying to take his name-tag.  An investment professional by day for many years, his passion for the last 30 years has been as a Special Olympic coach. He also makes time to be on the board and committees for a private high school.  A former runner, he now hikes 7-10 miles a day, travels and enjoys the wonderful cultural opportunities of the San Francisco Bay area.  His older son and grandson offer a wonderful excuse to visit New York while his younger son offers the opportunity to visit Southern CA.

Jim Hoyt, MD of Oakdale, CA, our surgeon ‘fantastico’ is making his 3rd Rotaplast trip but has gone on a couple mission trips to Guatemala with a group from the Methodist Church in Modesto, CA.  He also found that his services could be useful operating on burn cases and hand problems when he went with his family to Cambodia.  He had reservations in a hotel in Thailand after time in Cambodia, but the hotel in which he was to stay was totally destroyed in the tsunami the day before he was to leave Cambodia.  A scratch golfer with a 1 handicap, he finds it is a great way to relieve the stress of work.  Landscaping and gardening work similarly.  Right now he is re-doing his back yard in preparation for the wedding of his oldest daughter.  A 5th generation doctor, his hope is that one of his girls will carry on the tradition.

Marie Tolarova, MD, was educated in the Czech Republic but now is living and working in San Francisco.  She was wonderful to have on the team as one of the pediatricians.   She is seen above, in clinic the first day, checking to see which patients would be candidates for surgery.  She was also helpful the following day as we started surgery.  Sadly she had to return to attend some critical meetings in San Francisco but had agreed to come to help out during the difficult ‘start up’ time.


John Marshall, from the Lodi Tokey Rotary club in Lodi, CA will assume his duties as the club president 7/09.  Here in Venezuela on this his 5th Rotaplast trip, John makes sure the instruments are all sterilized and ready for surgery.  After 28 years as a career Army officer he retired to become a financial advisor, retiring from that in 06.  He serves as an executive secretary in the LDS church.  He has a wife of 25 years and a daughter.  He is passionate about his hobby;  playing his violin, once  having played with Reider Tommessen in Oslo, Norway.  (Note the boxes to the R in the picture.  They are all Rotaplast’s and there were more not seen)

Kirsten Plate, RN A Rotarian from Redding, CA. This is Kirsten’s 6th Rotaplast trip.  She has made 2 other mission trips to Africa with a group that largely focused on eyes.  Having been educated in Denmark she came to the US in her early thirties.  She has one son who has produced 2 grandchildren who bring smiles to this lovely lady.  Music is another thing that gives Kirsten pleasure so she donates a good deal of time to the local symphony.


Linda Jenkins, an RN with a passion for the pregnant population, is on her first Rotaplast mission, serving as the photo journalist responsible for taking photos and writing this blog.  She is an aficionado of the Spanish language and takes every opportunity to fill in as a translator, using her friendly, upbeat personality to interact congenially with the Barquisimeto patient group.  She´s written a book “Pregnancy, Birth and You” that has been translated into Spanish, has produced videos and conducts intensive one-day seminars on the same topic, and does doula work.  While new to Rotaplast work, she has taken numerous mission trips to Guatemala, performing surgical nursing and health education work.  Linda´s married to Rotarian Don, who is past president of Orinda Rotary and is currently Chairman for Simplified Grants of District 5160.  The mother of two daughters and the grandmother of three, Linda´s hobbies are sailing, skiing, hiking, and swimming.  (A teammate of Linda´s wrote this, since she was too modest to do this herself.)