September 24, 2021

From Rwanda to Peru, U.S. Health Executives Assist Hospitals, Schools

As part of the AdventHealth system in the United States, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission in Kansas and Centura Health Adventist hospitals in Colorado participate in mission opportunities in countries around the world through the organization’s Global Missions program. AdventHealth Shawnee Mission hosts mission trips to Peru, and Centura Health executives sponsor locations in Peru, Nepal, and Rwanda. 

AdventHealth Global Missions fosters long-term relationships with select hospitals around the world with senior leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to facilitate long-term strategic planning. Global Missions is a reflection of AdventHealth’s mission of Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ. This mission has prompted health-care teams across the system to volunteer on medical mission trips at 10 locations and participate through philanthropic assistance. This mission work has continued even amid a pandemic, when hospitals have had to remain nimble while caring for their communities.

Extending Healing in Rwanda

According to the Global Clubfoot Initiative, about 500 babies are born with clubfoot in Rwanda each year. Faustin, a young man from Rwanda, struggled with clubfoot for much of his life. This painful condition is characterized by walking on the ankles and can be a source of embarrassment. If left untreated, it can reduce a person’s quality of life and inhibit their ability to provide for their family. 

About 90 percent of the Rwanda population relies on subsistence farming, which provides some food for the family but little beyond that. Because farmers seldom use mechanized labor, a child with clubfoot is unable to participate in the required manual labor, diminishing the productivity of the entire family. 

Faustin's condition created a challenging situation for his family to make ends meet until a team member from Centura Health sponsored Faustin to receive surgery, which costs about US$4,000. 

Mike Goebel, chief executive officer for Parker Adventist Hospital in Colorado, and a team member from Centura Health visited Faustin and his family on their most recent mission trip to Rwanda, just before COVID-19 became widespread. 

The family invited the group to their house to thank the mission team for their work at the hospital and the donor’s contribution to Faustin’s health.

“Faustin received surgery for clubfoot and now has a future,” Goebel said. “He is pursuing a degree and can provide for his family, when before this surgery he was unable to help with farming. His father told our group, ‘I have nothing to offer you except prayer. Can I pray for you?’ It was incredibly touching that one of our team members contributed to Faustin’s future.”

Faustin is now 21 years old and pursuing a degree at a local university. The team member who donated to his surgery is now sponsoring his education.

Mugonero Adventist Hospital is located in a rural area, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive outside the capital city of Kigali. This is a challenge for families living in rural locations, who rely on walking or motorcycles for transportation. If patients seek more specialized surgical procedures such as orthopedic surgery, those are more accessible in Kigali. 

In 2020, a team of orthopedic and general surgeons traveled to Mugonero Adventist Hospital, where they conducted surgery for a day, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 

Centura Health also assisted health-care workers at the hospital to receive additional training in orthopedic and general surgery. In addition, one of the chief nursing officers at Centura conducted leadership training to improve hospital operations at Mugonero. 

Centura has donated resources for several projects at Mugonero in the past, including a new laundry facility, family waiting area, surgical supplies, and equipment, as well as a new water distribution system. Goebel and Greg Hodgson, director for Global Health Initiatives at Centura Health, have continued to facilitate this relationship. The group is making plans to move forward in hiring a local contractor in Rwanda to remodel the hospital’s main building. This will expand the service line to provide obstetric services such as a new maternity ward. 

Greg Hodgson and the team from Centura Health continued their involvement during the pandemic through virtual meetings over Zoom and email to facilitate the process of moving these special projects forward. 

Extending Healing in Peru

In 2016, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission began sponsoring mission trips to Peru with the help of Douglas Cusick, a plastic surgeon in Leawood, Kansas. Cusick, who had been on mission trips around the world along with his wife, Barbara, gave a US$1 million gift to AdventHealth Foundation Shawnee Mission to establish the Dr. J. Douglas Cusick Medical Mission Endowment. The proceeds help cover mission trip costs, including equipment, supplies, and part of the travel expenses for team members.

In 2016 and 2017, about 20 team members from AdventHealth went to Iquitos, Peru, to provide care. During the second trip, Cusick performed surgery on a burn victim who was a mother of four children. She had lost mobility in her arm after it had been severely burned and bandaged in a way that the wounds didn’t heal correctly. Because she lost mobility in that arm, she was unable to find work, since most available jobs involved manual labor.

After Cusick and his team performed the surgery, the woman regained 80 to 90 percent of the mobility in her arm. The team also arranged for her to get post-operative care, including wound care and physical therapy, close to where she lives. 

“The surgery really changed her life,” Jimmy Bolanos, regional director of strategy and business development for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, who went on the mission trip, said. “It gave her the ability to not only have a job but to help out around the home and even to get herself dressed. She was so thankful for everything.”

Cusick and a team from AdventHealth Shawnee Mission have been traveling on mission trips to Iquitos every year since 2016. In 2018, they started partnering with a hospital in Juliaca, Peru. In 2019, they performed more than 50 surgeries in Juliaca, including general surgery, reconstructive burn surgery, and surgery to repair congenital disabilities like cleft palate and cleft lip. 

In 2020, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission sent personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective clothing, masks, and other gear for health-care workers in Peru. In partnership with AdventHealth Orlando, they also provided the hospital in Juliaca with ventilators to help care for COVID-19 patients.

This year, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission is sending US$20,000 to help build oxygen plants in Peru to provide medical-grade oxygen. 

“It will give Clínica Adventista Ana Stahl [a hospital in Iquitos] the ability to produce their own oxygen for respiratory issues, since oxygen has been in such short supply during the pandemic,” Dave Kennedy, administrative director of mission and ministry at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, said. “It will definitely save lives.” 

The next mission trip to provide surgeries and clinics is planned for 2022, Bolanos said. In November 2021, members of the leadership team from AdventHealth Shawnee Mission will also travel to Peru. “We want to let our partners in Peru know we’re still supporting them,” Bolanos said. “We also want to give our leadership team a chance to see the great work that’s being done over there and how we can continue to help.”

The original version of this story was posted by the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook.