Two under-insured orthopedic patients at the shore who couldn't afford hip or knee replacements had little hope of walking again - until today. The needy patients from Toms River and Long Branch are undergoing operations free of charge at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

Dr. David Chalnick (Monmouth Medical Center)
Dr. David Chalnick (Monmouth Medical Center)

Monmouth is one of 49 hospitals in 29 states taking part in Operation Walk America 2012. It's the domestic arm of an annual global initiative to extend mobility-based surgery to people without coverage or means to pay.

Dr. David Chalnick, one of more than 100 orthopedic surgeons taking part across America, also directs Monmouth Medical Center's Total Joint Replacement Program.

"I'll be completely free for the patient," he enthuses. "All the doctors, myself, the hospital, the drug companies, the implant companies, therapy afterwards, trying to give these people back the quality of their life."

Operation Walk has roots in Europe in the mid-1990s, where Dr. Chalnick says it first came to his attention. Economic turmoil here in America give a special urgency to the mission now in its second year in the states.

"Unfortunately...there are a lot of people in need. Many people don't have insurance...they're unable to work. They need joint replacement to get back on their feet, so to speak."

The Barnabas Health facility is the only one in New Jersey involved in the network this year. Dr. Chalnick estimates that the procedures would normally cost anywhere between $30,000 and $40,000 each. Which leads to the question, given the general economic malaise that hospitals seem to endure, of why any of them would be involved at all.

"I saw it as a great opportunity to give back to the community," he says. "I made the proposal to the hospital, everyone agreed it was a great idea, and we're going ahead." He adds that Monmouth Medical Center's long history of humanitarianism is sorely needed at a storm-battered shore.

"We all give our time," he says. Everyone thought it was a great idea, especially at this time of year when people are down on their luck. It was a no-brainer."

When health care problems turn into headlines, doctors often are tarred with the same brush. Doctor Chalnick says that programs like Operation Walk America help remind people that they still live by the Hippocratic Oath. "All we want to do is help people," he says. "That's why we went to medical school. That's the bottom line, and this program is an example of how we're doing that."

Monmouth Medical Center and its children's hospital together form one of New Jersey's largest academic hospitals and is a longtime teaching affiliate of Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Medicine. See more about the medical center at

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