Women with a mission

Women for World Health, a nonprofit that provides medical care in underdeveloped nations worldwide, co-founded by Laguna College of Art and Design professor Denise Cucurny and Laguna Beach native Dr. Amy Wandel, completed its latest mission in San Marcos, Guatemala, in April.

Cucurny said volunteers treated 866 patients in four and a half days.

“The most wonderful part of these missions is to see the love and gratitude on the patients’ faces [post-surgery],” she said. “When I hand a child back to the mother and see hope in their eyes for the first time, it’s just an amazing thing to see.

“We get back so much more than we give.”


Established in August 2007, the organization evaluates and identifies community health care needs in the United States and developing nations, and then provides support for those needs through volunteer medical missions.

Although the nonprofit is run by women, services are not limited to women.

Medical specialties include plastic and reconstructive surgery, general surgery, OBGYN, pediatrics, ophthalmology, dentistry, dermatology, wound care and internal medicine.

Cucurny said plastic and reconstructive surgery, cataract surgery and dentistry are the most common treatments among poverty-stricken areas.


“It’s such a rewarding feeling to enable the blind to see,” she said.

Now composed of more than 350 volunteers, both medical and non-medical personnel, World Health has performed 164 surgeries and treated 4,119 patients in the U.S., Asia, and Central and South America.

The program often works in collaboration with other organizations to save money and provide better care.

“When we combine personnel and resources, it enables us to do more for patients with less [money],” Cucurny said.

Volunteers will soon embark on a trip to Qoya, Peru, on Friday, on a site visit for combined ophthalmology, plastic and reconstructive surgery mission.

They also plan to hold a fundraiser in early October in combination will Cla-Val Inc. and the Cling Family Foundation, at the residence of Pam Horowitz, who has offered her Laguna Beach home for the event.

Cucurny and Wandel were inspired to start their organization after they met through a similar volunteer group, which focused on reconstructive work.

“While we feel this care is very important, we didn’t want to limit ourselves to just this one area,” Cucurny said.


A professor at LCAD for 18 years, Cucurny said she attributes much of the group’s success to the flexibility and support shown by the college.

“I’ve been able to dedicate two full days a week to the [nonprofit] because LCAD has gone above and beyond to accommodate my schedule,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful and have so much respect for their values.”

Women for World Health is funded through donations. To learn more or to make a donation, visit To inquire about volunteering, call (714) 846-4524 or e-mail