part of this community of several hundred people
from more than 40 countries, representing different
professions, cultures, races, languages, and various
denominations, all united by one purpose: serving
the least among us.
Dispatch 2: Can it get any better?
As I settle in for the night after my first day of work
on the Africa Mercy, I find myself marveling at what
can be achieved when good people commit to a mission, no matter how hard, no matter how challenging.
Yesterday, I had a two-hour conversation over coffee
with Gary Parker, MD, the chief medical officer of
the Africa Mercy.
Gary is one of those people who strengthens your
faith in humanity. A craniofacial surgeon originally
from California, he and his family have called the Africa
Mercy home for 29 years. His two children were raised
on the ship and educated in the vessel’s fully accred-
ited school. Dr. Parker has tackled some of the most
difficult craniofacial problems in the world and is prob-
ably one of the world’s foremost experts on resection
of aggressive tumors and mandibular reconstruction.
Yet he exudes humility and expresses a genuine desire
to continue to learn from others.
A few hours after meeting Gary, I jump into the
operating room (OR) rather unexpectedly. I came here
to perform elective operations, but in the late afternoon, my cabin phone rings. Major Christopher Elliott,
MD, is on the line. Dr. Elliott is a U.S. Army Medical
Corps surgeon, and chief of general surgery, Landstuhl
Regional Medical Center, Germany, who is using 75
percent of his annual leave time to volunteer on the
Africa Mercy, leaving a big family behind in Germany.
We knew we would be here at the same time but were
unable to connect before our arrival.
Chris calls to tell me about a little boy who had
undergone a hernia repair several weeks earlier by
another surgeon and who is back with a recurrent
incarcerated hernia. I hurry to the ward to confirm
Dr. Elliott’s impression. The child does not look well,
and we rush him to the OR. My first procedure on the
Africa Mercy is an emergency procedure, a great way to
Dr. Emil with Mr. Stephens
Above: The Africa
Mercy hospital ship
The screening team
V101 No 9 BULLETIN American College of Surgeons