Dr. Andrew Moore Performs Life-Changing Surgeries for Free

updated 10/17/2012 AT 3:05 PM ET

originally published 12/01/2012 AT 9:40 AM ET

When an increasing number of his patients couldn’t pay for their life-changing surgeries, Dr. Andrew Moore decided he wasn’t going to just stand by or send them away without doing anything.

So he found a way to make the procedures completely free of charge.

The Lexington, Kentucky-based plastic surgeon initially started waiving his fees for some patients, but soon found that wasn’t reaching far enough. He grew disheartened every time a patient told him he couldn’t afford to have a melanoma removed because he had no insurance. “It was so frustrating,” says Moore, 63. “How was I going to take care of them?”

“We figured out the things we needed to do to make this work,” says Moore. “It makes a difference in individual lives.”

In 2005 the doctor launched Surgery on Sunday, a nonprofit group of more than 400 volunteer surgeons, nurses and medical professionals who perform free gall bladder removals, orthopedic repairs and other outpatient procedures in a donated surgical facility in Lexington.

To date, Moore’s group has performed about 4,500 surgeries – and has a waiting list of more than 500. The program has also spawned offshoots in Louisville and three other Lexington hospitals, with the hope to expand nationwide.

Raising funds through grants and donations to cover malpractice insurance and medical supplies, Moore’s band of medical good Samaritans has changed the lives of people like Michael Weyls, who lived in pain and terror after being diagnosed with a cancerous lesion he couldn’t afford to have removed.

A doctor he knew referred him to Surgery on Sunday; Moore performed three surgeries and rebuilt Weyls’s nose. “It could’ve killed me, and Dr. Moore worked a miracle,” says Weyls. “I thank God for this man.”

[RELATED_TEXT “More Heroes Among Us:

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Know a hero? Send suggestions to heroesamongus@peoplemag.com. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine

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