It was my pleasure to document and be part of a medical mission to Tanga, Tanzania to help bring primary health care into five rural villages and urban communities in the Tanga region. In conjunction with the Toledo Tanga Sister City Committee, the Rotary Club of Tanga, and the World Health Organization’s Dr. William Mwengee, the team was comprised of volunteers and medical students led by Dr. Richard Paat, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toledo College of Medicine and Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, Professor of Surgery and Tropical Medicine, George Washington University. Dr. Paat was instrumental in organizing not only this trip but 40 other medical missions including trips to the Guatemala, Philippines, Honduras and disaster areas like Cuba and Indonesia; Dr. Geelhoed has over 200 medical missions to his credit over the course of 5 decades and has written over 800 articles and four books, the most recent an autobiography which is being released in early 2011. With funding from a two-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MissionToHeal.org, the primary goal of the trip was not only to treat locals but more importantly to bring sustainable, cost-effective primary health care services into the rural villages and educate a handful of villagers in first aid, suturing skills, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, malaria, HIV and TB. The team transformed a local school into a triage unit, clinic, and pharmacy over the course of 4 days and saw over 200 patients a day. In addition, a dental clinic under Mike Kastner, DDS performed over 350 extractions and procedures over the course of four days. It was a great success with the local Pongwe Clinic opening their new operating room, which saw it’s first 50 procedures completed under the direction of Dr. Geelhoed, with the local group of newly educated medical assistants continuing immediately after our departure.
I can’t even begin to write about all the different experiences I had, people I met, and how much this trip changed my life and my perspective on things; living in a country like the U.S. you really take for granted necessities like clean water, food, medicine, and even electricity. Growing up in Los Angeles, everything was geared towards the consumers, capitalism and the “haves” rather than the educators, volunteers and the “have-nots”. I can only hope that area of Tanga continues to benefit from our trip and the Health Promoter System proves to be a successful model for them and other developing countries. But as long as groups of selfless individuals freely give their time and knowledge to make a difference in so many peoples lives in such a short time then you can believe that anything is possible. Special thanks to my mother-in-law Linda Inskeep RN who was part of the mission and introduced me to the group; Dr. Paat and and Dr. Geelhoed who were inspirational leaders and rolemodels for all; and the rest of the team including Mike Kastner DDS, Josie Hardy RN, Edward “Jay” Miller MPH, Dennis Bensch, Katrina Ducis, Kannan Samy, Audrey Roberts, Shweta Pai, Meghan Kaumaya, Todd, Ludwig, Holly Pierce and Dennis Steinauer. It was a pleasure to meet and work with you all, thanks for the good times, great memories, and hope to do it again! Below are some of my favorites from the trip to Tanga as well as our down time in Zanzibar afterward – you can view the photos in larger format on the gallery in my website. Asante Sana, Maisha Marefu!!!
Dr. Geelhoed shakes the hand of Rafiki, both birth brothers at 71 years of age, after Dr. G removed a hernia from Rafiki and Kanaan Samy sutures up the wound in the operating room at Pongwe Clinic (Photo by Donald Miralle).
A young girl looks on from inside the clinic as doctors diagnose her with a secondary infection from a dental procedure she had a month ago. Editors note: this was not a result of any procedure by Mike Kastner DDS (Photo by Donald Miralle)
Dr. Richard Paat fits a hearing aid to a local adolescent’s ear. The team from Toledo came with 14 large army duffels packed with medicine and supplies, as well as hearing aids and eye glasses (Photo by Donald Miralle).
A boy plays soccer with a ball made up of pieces of trash in Tanga, Tanzania. Soccer is the country’s most popular sport and with the World Cup going on everyday you would see groups of adults and children playing the in streets (Photo by Donald Miralle).
Children from a local school look at a memorial for slaves in Zanzibar, once a major port for the eastern Africa slave trade market (Photo by Donald Miralle).