Surgeon Gino Strada says that his dream is to return to a peaceful Afghanistan one day.

Surgeon Gino Strada says that his dream is to return to a peaceful Afghanistan one day. (Open Heart)

Dr. Gino Strada is the founder of EMERGENCY, a global organization that brings free health care to war-torn countries. Strada is featured in the documentary film "Open Heart," which is nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject at this year's Academy Awards. The film follows eight Rwandan children who travel to Sudan for life-saving open-heart surgery. Strada, 64, resides in Khartoum, Sudan, where he spends at least nine months each year working at the Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery. For more information, check out the EMERGENCY website ( or follow Strada on Twitter at (at)emergencyong and (at)emergencyusa.

Q. How did your travels affect your decision to found EMERGENCY?

A. As soon as you see how many people in the world live in so-called poor countries, you can't pretend that everything is OK and go on with your routine. EMERGENCY was born on this awareness and shared with friends and colleagues.

Q. What would people find surprising about Sudan?

A. The great collaboration when facilitating patients to come from all over Africa to enter the country to be operated on at the Salam Centre for cardiac surgery. Our patients come from over 24 African countries! On the tourist side, the Nubian pyramids of Meroe are incredible. It is truly an amazing archaeological site.

Q. What have you learned from you travels?

A. I learned how important it is to know how other people really live. We should be aware of all the nuances and cultures that exist in the world.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Venice, Rome, Kabul before the war, San Francisco and New York City.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. In the last 30 years, I've traveled a lot to very many places, but always for my work as a surgeon. I've been in the main theaters of war over the last years: Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda and Afghanistan. ... Fortunately, they don't remind me of home. And, unfortunately, they are home for many people.

Q. Which place would you like to revisit?

A. I would love to go to a peaceful Afghanistan. The first time I went there was about 25 years ago. There was war, and now it has become worse and worse in the last years.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. Because my trips are mostly to work at EMERGENCY hospitals, I have to do ample research before the trips, and generally they are focused on the current political and social situations.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. I'm not used to a weekend getaway. When I'm in Italy, I spend my time at home in Venice or Milan, which is the headquarters of EMERGENCY in Italy.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Venice, the town where I actually reside. It's a wonderful city that flourishes on the exchanges between people.