Stories & News from Medical Missionaries
Learn more about the work of Medical Missionaries by reading updates on our programs, and
the stories that our volunteers and Global Health Fellows have shared:
(And to keep
up to date with our news, be sure to follow Medical Missionaries on Facebook.)
10 aug 18 @ 1:35 am
Messages from our 2017-2018 Global Health Fellows
our 2017-2018 Global Health Fellows finished their year of service at St. Joseph Clinic in Haiti this June, they shared their
thoughts with us:
Lexy Dantzler graduated from Emory University
('17) and will be attending Emory University School of Medicine July 2018.
"This year has truly
been an unforgettable experience. I will be forever grateful for feeling so welcomed into the vibrant and gracious community
of Thomassique. Working with Medical Missionaries and leaders in the community was a life-changing experience that I will
always treasure and carry with me for the rest of my life. Mesi anpil!"
John Klyver graduated from University of California Davis ('17) and will be attending Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
in Scottsdale, AZ July 2018.
"I am grateful for the experience that I have had with Medical Missionaries
and for the services we continue to perform for the people of Thomassique and its surrounding communities. I hold my time
with Charles Saint-Fleur and Dr. Lawrence, St. Joseph Clinic's administrator and director, in special regard, and I will miss
the after-work basketball and soccer games with kids in the clinic's work/study program. I hope to remain involved in Medical
Missionaries and to return in the near future."
Betta Hobbins graduated from Johns Hopkins University ('17) and will be attending Loyola University Chicago Stritch
School of Medicine July 2018.
"This past year means more to me than I could ever express in words.
I want to thank Junior, Lawrence, my co-workers, Medical Missionaries, and above all, the people of Thomassique for all the
memories we've shared and the lifelong lessons you've taught me. I look forward to visiting soon and returning as a provider
16 may 18 @ 5:02 pm
Treating Childhood Malnutrition in Haiti
Medical Missionaries’ Medika Mamba Program,
which began in 2008, works to fight acute childhood malnutrition in the communities we serve in Haiti by providing a nutritional
supplement that can restore the health of malnourished children over a course of 4 to 6 weeks.
These supplements are easy to use and inexpensive (it only costs $100 to restore the health of a child over the course of
their enrollment) and can help children thrive during the early years of their development.
Why is this program critically important? Severe malnutrition
is a major cause of childhood deaths in Haiti. According to Meds & Food for Kids (the producer of Medika Mamba), 1 in
5 children in Haiti are malnourished, and 1 in 14 will die before reaching the age of 5. Many children in Haiti have
only one meal each day, some less. The effects of chronic and acute malnutrition are life-long, not only making children
more susceptible to contracting diseases and increasing the probability of childhood death, but also resulting in reduced
physical and mental development for a person’s entire life.
In the Thomassique area we serve, malnourished children are identified at the Clinic, during mobile clinics or home visits.
Once children are enrolled in the program, their progress is evaluated each week.
Wilner Ossè, the Assistant Director for the Medika Mamba Program,
works closely with both the Clinic staff and the families of malnourished children. He also attends mobile clinics in
the villages every week in order to screen children for malnutrition and provide health education for families awaiting
Making home visits
provides a crucial opportunity to not only check on patients’ progress but also to evaluate the home for safety, utilization
of a safe water treatment system, good sanitation, and food availability. Wilner conducts all the home visits for patients
living in town, and assigns home visits to our Community Health Workers in their respective remote villages.
Medical Missionaries’ Medika Mamba Program, along
with our Maternal and Infant Care Program, Vaccination Program, and School Lunch Program, all work towards improving the well-being
of Haiti’s next generations and giving them the possibility of a healthier and brighter future.
1 apr 18 @ 4:28 pm
A Patient's Story from Rural Haiti
By Betta Hobbins, John Morgan Klyver, and Lexy Dantzler
Medical Missionaries Global Health
Just outside of Savane Platte,
there's a small house on a hill. It's a pretty iconic house, framed against picturesque mountains and ever-present bright
blue sky. It was just gorgeous that first time that we came out to Savane Platte's Mobile Clinic. We didn't have too much
time to do more than simply notice it, however. We spent our time working with the pharmacy, shadowing the doctors, and generally
helping out in whatever capacity we could.
At the end of
the day, one of the members of Savane Platte's health committee invited us to visit his garden and one of his elderly neighbors.
We gladly took him up on the offer and went off with him, walking among the beans, corn, and other vegetables growing behind
his house. Afterwards, he began leading us towards the picturesque house on the hill.
He told us that one of its inhabitants was quite elderly, having outlived all of her children, and she was now living with
her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Upon reaching the house, we were greeted by a middle-aged woman who welcomed us
inside. Several children scampered out of our way, and sitting in the corner was Ayila.*
Ayila was frail and sweet, with beautiful light-gray eyes. She slowly smiled up at us, and we sat and spoke
with her family for a while. They were very glad to see us and visit with us, but we couldn't stay long. We promised to come
When the next Savane Platte mobile clinic came around,
we packed up some powdered milk for Ayila, and we set out with Dr. Lawrence and some of the other doctors. As the clinic wrapped
up, we met up with Dr. Lawrence, asked him to come out with us, and we walked to the house on the hill. When we arrived, Ayila
was as happy to see us. Dr. Lawrence sat down on a bench with her to do a physical examination.
Dr. Lawrence was incredibly kind and gentle with Ayila as he checked her blood pressure and vital signs. Despite
the short duration of the visit, he managed to make it feel special and intimate, sitting on a small bench with Ayila for
the entire time. As we got up to leave, he promised to come back and to send medication and nutrients out in the future.
We still go out to visit that small house on the hill in Savane Platte, and we
still bring powdered milk and whatever else Dr. Lawrence recommends. We always think back to Dr. Lawrence's trip to Savane
Platte, about how caring and selfless he was. This type of care is what we're proud to support in the local community, and
it's the standard of what St. Joseph's Clinic provides. Sometimes the best and most appropriate care takes place on a bench
in a countryside house, not on an ER bed or on an operating table.
*Some patient and location names have been changed.
18 oct 17 @ 4:33 pm
Dr. Gil Irwin Receives Award For His Work to Improve Healthcare for the Poor
Dr. Gil Irwin, Founder and Director of Medical Missionaries, received the Patcha Foundation's 2017 Power of One Award
in recognition of his work to improve healthcare for the poor. The award was presented at the Foundation's Annual CASEC Awards
and Fundraising Gala on October 14, 2017.
The Foundation acknowledged
Dr. Irwin's work:
"This award is given
in recognition of your distinguished career, leadership, commitment, dedication and exemplary work in improving the health
of all disenfranchised peoples.
is the lasting impact of Medical Missionaries, the organization you founded. Your work in Thomassique, Haiti is providing
much needed health care services and saving the lives of thousands of otherwise forgotten Haitians.
Your medical outreach program continues to provide not only medicine, medical equipment
and supplies, but medical practitioners as well, into the most remote regions across several continents, where there is little
or no access to health care."
Dr. Irwin on this recognition, along with all the volunteers who make the work of Medical Missionaries possible.
We also acknowledge the work that the Patcha Foundation (MMPF) is accomplishing,
particularly through its CASEC (Cancer Awareness, Screening, Early detection and Care) Program that organizes cancer awareness
programs and medical missions in Africa that provide medical services including cancer screening and treatment to thousands
of participants for free.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters,
last year Medical Missionaries was able to donate medicines and medical supplies to the Patcha Foundation that helped them
provide health care and surgeries to over 3,400 people in the far north region of Cameroon, Africa, where there are thousands
of displaced persons suffering the affects of conflicts in the region.
26 sep 17 @ 3:17 pm
Program Update: School Dental Hygiene Program
Launched at the beginning of the 2016 school year, our pilot Dental Hygiene Program in a local Thomassique school has been
teaching children the importance of brushing their teeth, and how to properly brush. Their progress was monitored throughout
the year, and we saw a reduction of over 35% in the students' plaque index!
We plan to expand the program during the coming year. This can help Haitians lead healthier lives (we see many life-threatening
infections at the clinic that have resulted from poor dental hygiene).
We thank Dr. Joseph Cavallo for taking the initiative to start this program in response to the great need he saw
during one of his volunteer dental trips to Thomassique, We thank him and our other volunteer dentist, Michael Morch, for
traveling to the Clinic for over 15 years to provide dental care for villagers who had never seen a dentist before. They are
helping Haitians to lead healthier lives.
We also thank Colgate
Palmolive for donating the toothpaste and toothbrushes that make this program possible.
23 aug 17 @ 9:22 pm
Featured Haiti Community Leader:
Janvier, our Thomassique Klorfasil and Bon Sel Coordinator* in Haiti, does much to improve the health of villagers in her
community through the work she does. She recently shared her thoughts with us about working with St. Joseph Clinic.
Why did you start working for St. Joseph Clinic?
The Thomassique Water
Coordinator position was originally held by my sister. I had watched her do the reports and had gone with her on home visits
and so, when she left Haiti, I knew it was something I could do--work I wanted to continue.
What is your favorite part of the job?
is my home and because of all the home visits I do, I feel very included in the community. It is my job to encourage health
and to make sure people understand the risks of not treating their water, but at the same time I get to visit old friends
and make new friends. Also encouraging people and letting them know Klorfasil and Bon Sel is available and easy! It makes
me feel good to know I am helping my community, my home.
- - - - -
*About our programs:
The Water Purification Program educates about the importance of using safe
water, and promotes the use of Klorfasil (a water purification system) throughout the villages of Thomassique.
The Bon Sel (Good Salt) Program provides a fortified salt to prevent conditions that are endemic in Haiti, Iodine deficiency
(essential for brain development), and the parasitic disease Lymphatic Filariasis (aka Elephantiasis).
16 aug 17 @ 5:31 pm
Update: Maternity and Infant Care Program
Maternity and Infant Care Program at St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, is currently staffed by 3 full-time midwives
and a nurse skilled in midwifery who provide pre-natal consultations, assist with births, and conduct education sessions on
postpartum and newborn health.
The growth of this program since 2012 has been made possible
by support from foundations committed to working with us to improve maternal and infant care in the region, by having experienced
midwives on staff at the Clinic, training traditional birth attendants to work in Thomassique's outlying villages, and ensuring
availability of medicines needed for prenatal and postnatal care.
the first six months of 2017 (January through June), 200 babies were born at the Clinic, and in the outlying villages of Thomassique,
our Matwons (Traditional Birth Attendants) have facilitated 688 at-home births!
With 75% of births in the region taking place in the home, extending maternal care to the outlying villages by training
Matwons has become an important way for the Clinic to help women in remote villages have safe deliveries, and reduce maternal
and infant mortality in the community.
In May 2017, our 4th
class of Matwons completed their 22 weeks of training, and these 15 new Matwons joined the 29 who were previously trained,
as they bring their new skills to help improve maternal and infant care throughout the region.
The Matwons come to the Clinic each month for additional education sessions, and to meet with the Clinic midwives.
They also pick up "clean birthing kits" to use for the month.
10 jun 17 @ 3:54 pm
St. Joseph Clinic 10th Anniversary Celebration and the
Thomassique Health Fair
We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of St. Joseph Clinic
in Thomassique, Haiti, on June 4, 2017.
The anniversary celebration started out with a Mass said by Fr. Ronel at St. Thomas, the local Catholic church. Dr. Lawrence and our Global Health Fellows spoke at Mass to thank the Thomassique community for their support
of the Clinic, and they invited everyone to attend the Thomassique Health Fair at the Clinic that afternoon.
300 people participated in the Health Fair, which featured more than a dozen education tables. Clinic doctors, nurses, and
Community Health Workers shared information with villagers about health issues that affect their daily lives.
Topics included the importance of vaccinations, dental hygiene, women's health,
ways to improve nutrition, disease prevention, the importance of water purification, and more! At each table, the participants
received tickets that made them eligible to win prizes in the raffle that followed. Along with the raffle, the participants
enjoyed music and snacks.
Everyone enjoyed themselves, and appreciated
the opportunity to learn more about ways to improve the health of their families.
16 may 17 @ 6:31 pm
Work of Medical Missionaries in 2016
had a busy year in 2016 in its efforts to serve the poor both in the USA and worldwide.
In the USA, Medical Missionaries provided Disaster Relief Assistance for victims of floods in West Virginia,
Louisiana, and North Carolina. Read more about disaster relief in 2016. We also worked with other groups to send many sea containers of medical and household supplies to the needy throughout the
world. Since our founding 20 years ago, we have shipped over 165 sea containers of supplies to those in need worldwide, and
have provided disaster relief in the USA for victims of hurricanes, floods, and tornados. Our volunteers have also made over
300 trips to deliver supplies to Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Appalachia, and American Indian reservations in Oklahoma
and South Dakota.
Our work in Haiti continues, with our focus on continuing support of St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique
which we opened in 2007. The Clinic is the only medical facility serving more than 125,000 people in Haiti’s Central
Plateau, and its services continue to see significant growth.
In 2016 alone, more than 10,000 patients were seen
at the Clinic for medical consultations, with another 3,396 receiving medical care at the mobile clinics conducted in Thomassique’s
In the Maternity and Infant Care Program, over 300 babies were delivered at the clinic in 2016. The program
is currently staffed by 3 full-time midwives and a nurse skilled in midwifery who provide prenatal consultations, assist with
births, and conduct education sessions on postpartum and newborn health.
During the year, Matwons (Traditional
Birth Attendants) trained by the Clinic assisted with more than 1,500 home deliveries in Thomassique’s remote outlying
villages. Read more about the growing role of Matwons at the Clinic.
In our Vaccination Program, St. Joseph Clinic continued to serve as a coordinating site for
the Ministère de la SantèPublique et de la Population (MSPP, the Haitian Ministry of Health) vaccination program.
Each month hundreds of mothers receive vaccinations at the Clinic, plus Community Health Workers provide vaccinations in the
outlying villages of Thomassique. Read more about vaccinations for mother and child.
Be sure to follow Medical Missionaries on Facebook to hear more about these and our other programs, including our Water Purification Program, School Lunch Program, Malnutrition
Program, and Bon Sel (Good Salt) Program.
17 apr 17 @ 2:38 pm
A Life Saved, With Lasting Impact for St. Joseph Clinic
One story of service has had a lasting impact on St. Joseph Clinic.
In January 2008, a young man was brought to the Clinic just as a surgical team from the U.S. arrived. He had been paralyzed
several years earlier, was confined to a wheelchair, and was brought in experiencing a fever and body aches. One of the visiting
U.S. surgeons, Dr. Dave Snyder, and his nurse, Sherry Pace, examined the young man and determined that he was septic. Only
immediate surgery would save his life. The U.S. team was able to perform exactly the surgery that he needed and saved his
That young man would regularly return to the Clinic to
visit with the Medical Team when they were there. He also went on to graduate top in his class from the university in Hinche,
majoring in business and accounting.
A few years later, Junior
St. Fleur Charles would become the Manager of St. Joseph Clinic.
14 apr 17 @ 4:58 pm
My Hope For All Children
Medical Missionaries Board Member, Team Member
On one of our first medical trips to Thomassique a mother brought her baby to the clinic. The baby was drowning in
her own secretions. She was about 6 months old, could no longer even hold her head up, and her eyes were all glassed over.
We were all so upset knowing she would soon be just a statistic of a dead child in Haiti.
Dr. Irwin, undaunted, instructed us to give the baby an IM (intramuscular) antibiotic injection.
then spoke with the mom and asked her to bring the child back in the afternoon for another injection. The mother brought the
baby to the clinic twice a day for antibiotic injections. We were all amazed at how quickly the baby improved.
The afternoon of the third day the little baby came to the clinic in her Sunday best with a bonnet on her head and
a big smile on her face. It was such a miracle!!
This is what I hope for all little children. It is one of the many reasons I continue with Medical
14 apr 17 @ 4:44 pm
A Volunteer's Story
Warehouse Volunteer, Medical Team Member
In April 2008, I was looking for a local organization where
I could use my nursing skills to help others. I wanted to volunteer with like minded and motivated people who shared a cause
close to my heart. A Web search lead me to Medical Missionaries. I was attracted by the fact that it is
an organization dedicated to “helping the poorest of the poor”.
I emailed Dr Irwin to set up a meeting. My involvement was not at all what I thought it would be; it turned out to
be better. While I occasionally went on medical teams to Thomassique, I ended up helping at the Medical Missionaries warehouse
on a regular basis. Other volunteers showed me how to sort, label and store the incoming donated medical
supplies. I learned that MM not only helps third world countries, but they help local folks in need. I was surprised at the
wide variety of services Medical Missionaries provides to people in need, in the U.S. And many countries throughout the world.
am glad to be a part of an organization that is making a difference.
11 apr 17 @ 10:27 pm
Smiling and Full of Life
By Debra Parrish
Surgical Team Leader
It’s amazing what can happen when you just put your arm around someone. It can lead
to “fixing a broken heart.”
I first met William in Banica during a surgical team trip. Walking to and from the Banica hospital every day, I would
encounter William and some of his seven siblings. I passed out Tootsie roll pops to them. Somehow, this little
boy made a big impression on me.
The next year when I returned, William was at the side of the road and
remembered me as the “Tootsie Roll Pop Lady.” I wanted to get a photo of William and me. I bent down beside
him and when I put my arm around him I felt a very profound heart murmur. I had our surgeons look at him. They agreed
that he had some major heart defects.
Not wanting William to die at an early age, I decided to try to arrange for
the help he needed. It took eight months to make the arrangements but William and his mother arrived in the U.S and
spent thirty-one days at Ronald McDonald house in Washington, a few miles from the hospital where William would be treated
for his heart problems.
This only happened thanks to the efforts of many people and Medical Missionaries.
Volunteers took care of the passport and VISA paperwork, served as translators, donated clothes, and provided hospitality
to William and his mother. American Airlines provided free tickets. The Larry King Heart Foundation and Children’s
Hospital underwrote the hospital bills. The cardiologist and surgeon donated their services.
had heart surgery and recovered quickly. If not for the scar on his chest, you would never guess he even had surgery.
After several post-operative visits, William was given the green light to resume a normal life and he and his mother returned
Footnote: Each subsequent year when Debra returned on surgical
teams, she would try to find William to check on his progress. She found him in February 2010, and was happy to see he is
doing great, and took this photo with him.
26 sep 12 @ 3:53 pm
To read blog posts from earlier years posted
by our Global Health Fellows during their year of service in Haiti, visit the "Global Health Fellows' Blogs" on Blogspot (clicking this link will take you to thomassique.blogspot.com).