Mission Doctors Association’s goal has always been to work ourselves out of a job in the locations where we work.
Ideally, this means that the local healthcare professionals have been trained and no longer need us.
We are delighted to have been successful in this mission in a number of locations.
GOAL: Improve patient care and train local health professionals
When Dr. Bill Walsh and his wife Kate arrived at Karoli Lwanga Hospital in Uganda, they were the first to serve from Mission Doctors Association. Bill, a surgeon and Kate, a nurse, began at the 240 bed rural hospital in 2015. They found that so many of the patients were not being treated for critical illnesses and injuries.
As the only surgeon, Bill quickly recognized that while there were many needs, the two actions that could have the greatest impact would be the addition of an Emergency Room and training for staff to help them prioritize those most in need of treatment.
A young Emergency Medicine resident from Harvard, Dr. Mark Bisanzo, contacted Mission Doctors to learn more about serving. We made the connection between the Walshes and Dr. Bisanzo, who was grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Walsh.
In planning with the Hospital Administration, Mission Doctors began to create something completely unique in rural Uganda: an Emergency Room.
MDA was able to secure funding from the Tom Dooley Heritage Foundation and Dr. and Mrs. Clyde Von der Ahe for the construction, but that was just the beginning. Even before the construction was completed, the Emergency Room was put into service when a terrible road accident nearby resulted in more than a dozen serious injuries.
Bill began working with the local doctors and the nurses and noted that with a group of nurses dedicated to this work, they were able to learn and implement what they had learned more quickly.
Upon completing his residency, Dr. Bisanzo returned many times and continues to return with other short-term Mission Doctors, and has worked to create a program for training nurses in triage, bringing other Emergency Room doctors to join in the work.
The outcome quickly revealed the tremendous difference that Bill knew an Emergency Room would make when the staff had the opportunity to be trained and succeed!
See the video of the celebration of the opening of the Emergency Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtInEChlimE
GOAL: Improve patient care by building an eye clinic
It is not only Family Practice doctors who are needed in the missions. Specialists are needed at mission hospitals as well. Yet with many specialties, the requisite equipment and supplies make it impossible for an orthopedist, cardiologist, or ophthalmologist to utilize all their skills.
In 1997, when Mission Doctor Dr. Jim Guzek arrived in Ghana with his wife and three-year-old son, James – they went with the ambitious intent of opening an eye clinic at the Margaret Marquart Catholic Hospital. An ophthalmologist is a medical and surgical specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye.
Establishing an eye service at this rural Catholic Hospital would require a great deal of preparation in advance. It was a task that Jim and Roberta were certainly up to taking on, trusting that they were not doing this alone and that it was God who had called them to do this important work. Over the course of the nine-month formation program, over $100,000 worth of equipment and supplies were donated, gathered, collected, packed on pallets, and shipped.
This left only the most vital equipment for them to take with them. Their departure from LAX was quite the scene with boxes and bags. The family of three headed out to West Africa where they would make a lasting difference. When they arrived in the Diocese of Ho, they got to work.
Within three months, the clinic at this Catholic Hospital was open and serving patients. Exams, diagnosis and cataract surgeries began in full. And most amazingly, within only six months, the hospital had been approved as a teaching facility by the West African College of Surgeons. One of the issues often dealt with at the site is traumatic and congenital cataracts in children, common in Sub Saharan Africa, that sadly often lead to blindness without treatment.
Jim’s story is one that truly exemplifies sustainability. Over the four years, Jim and Roberta served in Ghana as members of Mission Doctors Association. Not only did they see countless patients and perform countless surgeries on young and old alike, but they also participated in the training of 10 ophthalmologists and 10 eye nurses. However, it didn’t end there. The hospital continues to operate, although not as a teaching facility, nearly 20 years since the Guzeks left. Their work has been multiplied over and over again, and expectations have been more than met.
GOAL: Improve patient care and train local health professionals
The best type of departure a Mission Doctor can make when leaving a mission hospital, is the one when they are no longer needed! This is what happened when Dr. Brent Burket and Dr. Jennifer Thoene left Guatemala.
In 2007, they arrived in Lake Attilan, with their four young children, and in 2010 when they left, there was no longer a need for long-term mission doctors.
Hospitalito, Lake Atitlan was originally founded by Blessed Stanley Rother, a priest from Oklahoma, who was martyred in Guatemala in 1981. The original hospital he helped build was destroyed by torrential rains in the wake of Hurricane Stan in 2005, that brought devastating mudslides, taking the lives of as many as 1,400 and displacing 5,000 people. Within two weeks after the October mudslides, doctors reopened a temporary hospital in a building that had been a backpacker’s hostel on the other side of the town, on the shores of Lake Atitlan. This is the Hospital where Brent and Jennifer began serving only two years later, but work had already begun on a more permanent home.
The presence of these two hard-working physicians helped make it possible for the community to focus on the construction of the new hospital. As family practice doctors, they provided a constant presence, available to care for patients of all ages. This rural community of indigenous Mayan Tzujuhil people wanted a new hospital so badly that even the little children were raising money to buy a brick to be used in construction. Everyone became involved in making this dream come true.
When Brent and Jennifer left in 2010, they were really no longer needed here. They left with the gratitude of the people, knowing that the local healthcare community was ready to work without long-term doctors from MDA.
Brent and Jennifer, however, did not return to begin working in the United States. Feeling that God was still calling their family to serve, they returned to visit family for a bit, then headed out to answer God’s call to care for the poor in rural Cameroon, West Africa for another three years! When they left Cameroon three years later, they passed the baton to Mission Doctor, Martha Franz, the second best way to leave!
GOAL: Development of Bwambo Health Center, train local health professionals, improve patient care
There is nothing better for a mission site than consistency.
In 2009, Mark and Molly Druffner and their seven children arrived in Bwambo, a small village in rural Tanzania, expectant to see what God had planned for them.
Nine years later, they still return to the site every summer, and that regularity has made a remarkable impact. They have transformed the site: they’ve improved patient care, improved doctor housing and the church facilities, and they’ve raised enough money for the hospital to have its own ambulance. The hospital now can better accommodate volunteers, who then go on to take care of more patients.
Simply put, the Druffners have brought care to people who have no other care in the remote area.
Mark, a family practice OB, and Molly, a master at connecting and fundraising, have proven themselves to be a magnet for change. When they first arrived, there were only six people on the staff at the hospital. With the Druffners’ commitment, there are now more than twice that and they are able to provide care to so many more patients in need.
The Druffners were the recipient of our 2018 Msgr. Anthony Brouwers Award for this work.