"Words cannot express the gratitude of the patients we serve or the pleasure we feel extending our services to the underprivileged. I thank Aloha Medical Mission for making these missions possible." Dennis Yeomans, D.D.S.
The medical-surgical teams sent to the developing countries of Asia and the Pacific are a cornerstone of Aloha Medical Mission’s activities. The first missions occurred in the early 1970s, when Dr. Ernesto Espaldon, a plastic surgeon from the Philippines then living in Guam, and his anesthesiologist wife returned to his hometown of Tawi Tawi in Mindanao to fix the cleft lips of children. The Aloha Medical Mission was formed when Hawai‘i physicians teamed with Dr. Espaldon in 1983 to assist him in his efforts.
The number of missions and physicians and specialties gradually increased over the years. Teams have been sent to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, Micronesia, and Vanuatu. Ten years ago, a permanent medical clinic was establish in Bangladesh which has since developed into a multiservice facility providing medical care, early education for children too poor to attend school, vocational and literacy training for parents, advocacy for women's rights, and micro-loans to needy families.
In 2005, medical-surgical teams helped in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, after the tsunami disaster. In 2006, teams worked with the U.S. Navy aboard the USNS Mercy on its tour through the South Pacific. AMM is assisting physicians helping in Western Sāmoa following the earthquake-tsunami in 2009. Continuing and recurring missions are currently going to Laos, Burma, and, of course, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The number and types of patients treated depends on the number and specialty composition of the team.
Medical-focused missions tend to be staffed by family practitioners, internists, ER physicians, dermatologists and pediatricians.
Surgical-focused missions are dependent upon the availability of the specialties. Most missions have general and plastic surgeons as the core group. Anesthesiologists are key members of the team and are often in short supply. Gynecologists, ENTs, and ophthalmologists are extremely useful but are difficult to recruit. Dentists are also in great demand.
Mission sites are generally in small rural towns where the population is most frequently medically underserved.
Our general surgeons will commonly do inguinal and abdominal hernias, thyroidectomies, (open) cholecystectomies, breast, ano-rectal, and simple head & neck (branchial cleft and thyroglossal duct cysts) surgeries, circumcisions, amputations, and a variety of soft tissue masses (lipomas, sebaceous cysts, neurofibromas). Laparoscopic equipment is rarely, if at all, available in the facilities where we work.
Plastic surgeons are needed for cleft lip & palates, burn contractures, and hand injuries.
ENT surgeons are needed for tonsillectomies and head & neck procedures.
Gynecologists will perform both transabdominal and vaginal hysterectomies and oophorectomies. Uterine prolapse is a commonly encountered condition.
Dentists do what dentists do best: pull teeth, and if the facilities and equipment permit, also do restorative dentistry.
Ophthalmologistsare in great demand to perform cataract extractions.
The continued success of our foreign mission program depends greatly on sustained recruiting of skilled, energetic and motivated physicians, dentists, nurses, and ancillary health-care professionals. Please consider volunteering.