944th MDS commander receives Humanitarian Award

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  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Col. Miguel Pirela-Cruz, 944th Medical Squadron commander, was honored for his work as a civilian physician with the Dignity Health Medical Group Surgical Specialties - Chandler Regional, Jan. 10, in Fort Lauderdale.

Dr. Pirela-Cruz was awarded a Humanitarian Award by the American Association for Hand Surgery. In a 12-day medical mission trip to developing countries, more than 50 children in Guatemala recently received free hand surgery. Dr. Pirela-Cruz and the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation (which includes medical students and residents) screened nearly 125 patients for surgery and conducted 53 operations in just five days; some children underwent more than one procedure.

“We treat a lot of congenital anomalies and traumatic injuries from electrocution and burns,” said Dr. Pirela-Cruz. “The infrastructure for electricity in Guatemala is not very good; there are many code violations, so children are often electrocuted and end up losing their limbs or hand function.”

The Humanitarian Award was created to honor a deserving Association member who has made or continues to regularly make unique or special contributions, and/or personal sacrifices for the betterment of humanitarian efforts.

”I’m incredibly proud of Col. Pirela-Cruz,” said Col. James Greenwald, 944th Fighter Wing commander. “One of the greatest parts of our culture is how Reserve Citizen Airmen make a difference -- not just in our military unit and mission, but also in our communities and in this case, the world. “Colonel PC” has literally changed the lives of dozens of children and their families. I’m so glad he’s being recognized for such an outstanding example of selfless service.

Pirela-Cruz became the 944th MDS commander in 2017 and has deployed as a Reserve Citizen Airman on a similar mission in support of African Lion 2007, a combined U.S.-Moroccan military exercise designed to promote improved interoperability.