Cell phones have changed our world dramatically. Not only do your teenagers spend every minute of every day tweeting, texting, checking the latest posts on facebook or talking, they also manage to do all of this on a small phone! Yet as the phones become more and more like computers, we rely on them for many, many things.

Health care workers in particular use phones to gain almost instant access to a vast world of medical information: Medical books, guidelines, drug updates and quick references can be accessed; information such as copies of EKGS, labs and other data can be relayed to specialists anywhere in the world; and patients can be kept abreast of their findings with a simple call, text or pdf file.

In third world countries, cell phones offer additional advantages: Patients can be notified of upcoming appointments rather than just showing up at rural clinics. Support groups within the community and elsewhere can be accessed and assist in the care of the patient. Much needed supplies can be ordered.

We in the United States discard about  half a million cell phones each and every day. These devices contain some nasty chemicals such as cadmium, lead, nickel and beryllium. Why not recycle these devices? Even better, why not donate used cellphones to an organization, which refurbishes the phones and then provides  health care workers in third world countries with phones?

Hopephones (www.hopephones.org) is just such an organization.  They recycle and refurbish our old phones  and give them to health care workers. This in turn creates vital communication networks  and saves lives.

I will be starting a cellphone recycling drive at the hospital where I work, Petaluma Valley Hospital.  I invite all of you to participate, wherever you work or live. Just think, your teenager most likely has several models strewn about,collecting dust.