Medical Mission Trip in Peru Transforms Nearly 1,500 Lives

AdventHealth initiative sends its largest medical group ever to serve.

Brenda Dickerson, Mid-America Union Conference Outlook
<strong>Medical Mission Trip in Peru Transforms Nearly 1,500 Lives</strong>
Recently, AdventHealth sent the largest medical group ever from the Mid-America region. Four teams consisting of 30 team members traveled to serve in Juliaca, Peru. [Photo: Mid-America Union Conference Outlook]

Recently, AdventHealth sent the largest medical group ever from the Mid-America region. Four teams consisting of 30 team members traveled to Juliaca, a city in southeastern Peru located on the shores of Lake Titicaca at more than 12,500 feet (3,825 meters) above sea level.

For several years, AdventHealth Global Missions in the Mid-America region of the United States has sent medical teams to Peru to provide care to local communities where medical access can be limited. Medical staff travel abroad filled with hope and uncertainty, not knowing what medical issues they will face, but they say they return home forever changed by the experience.

On the Juliaca trip, each team had a specific role. Two surgery teams went — one for plastic surgery led by Douglas Cusick, and one for general surgery led by Robert Aragon. AdventHealth also sent a community health team and a leadership team.   

During the medical mission, the teams saw nearly 1,500 patients in four communities and performed 52 surgeries, including gallbladder removals, hernias, cleft palates, and hand surgeries.  

“Watching the impact the work had on our team was deeply moving,” Dave Kennedy, regional executive director of mission at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, said. “We regularly gathered to reflect on what we were seeing and experiencing, and tears were continually shed as team members empathized with the people they were serving. It was heartbreaking to see some of the issues people were facing every day.”

Although many residents came to see the team for more complex health issues, some, like a man Kennedy met, just needed a pair of glasses to improve their eyesight. 

“We were able to custom make him a set of eyeglasses that drastically improved his vision, and as a result, his life,” Kennedy said. “The look on his face when he put those glasses on and read the eye chart is forever etched in my mind. His smile stretched from ear to ear. I’ve thought often about what his life is like now, being able to see.”  

Not every case was simple to treat. Kennedy, who was part of the leadership and community health teams, observed that many local residents had cataracts, which would require surgery instead of glasses. Kennedy recalls feeling helpless as the team was not able to conduct eye surgeries on the spot. Given the high number of cataract cases that were discovered during this mission, AdventHealth is currently raising funds to establish a cataract clinic in Juliaca, which could be operational by September 2023, before a new medical team returns to the city.

Celebrations and Plans

Along with Kennedy, the leadership team also included Sam Huenergardt, president and CEO of AdventHealth in the Mid-America region; Laurie McCormack, executive director of the Kansas City AdventHealth Foundation; and Steve Achord, director of nutritional services at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. They met with leaders of Clínica Americana, AdventHealth’s partner organization in Juliaca, for mutual learning and partnership development.  

 “While the team was in Juliaca, Clínica Americana celebrated 100 years of service to the city,” Kennedy said. “It was a huge event, and we were thrilled to have our leadership team there, as well as Monty Jacobs, who is director of Global Missions at AdventHealth.” 

As part of the celebration, AdventHealth CEOs across the organization contributed monetary gifts to fund a new wing of the hospital that will include three new operating rooms and an intensive care unit. 

AdventHealth also had artwork created using parts of the Trinity sculpture that currently hangs in the lobby at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. The new artwork was sent to Clínica Americana to display in the new wing and features a plaque in English and Spanish explaining the connection between the two works of art and the two organizations. 

The AdventHealth mission trips are supported by the Dr. J. Douglas Cusick Medical Missions Endowment, which subsidizes volunteers’ travel and supply expenses.  

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

Brenda Dickerson, Mid-America Union Conference Outlook