Dr. Jeff Parks and Hands of Hope

May 31st, 2018

A mission trip with an initial goal of providing school physicals in Liberia turned into a calling for Dr. Jeff Parks, friends and colleagues. The Hands of Hope medical ministry to the West African village of Weala has endured the Ebola crisis, war and political unrest while providing care to thousands of individuals.

In March, Dr. Parks completed his sixth visit as mission medical director alongside SIH Medical Group’s Cindy Hardin (physician office specialist for New Life Weight Loss Center), Marion ophthalmologist Dr. Ukeme Umana, retired Herrin Hospital ER nurse Nancy Bierman and a handful of providers and volunteers from across the state.

“I happened to be at the right place at the right time in history,” says Dr. Parks of his involvement which dates back to 2010.

Since then, Dr. Parks, Community of Faith Church Pastor Troy Benitone and more than 30 SIH registered nurses, physicians, staff and surgeons have joined the effort. The group skipped 2015 due to the Ebola crisis and 2017 because of upheaval surrounding the country’s presidential elections. SIH System Director of Laboratory Services Steve Howerton is credited with designing and setting up the field lab that remains in use today. Last year, a surgeon with SIH Medical Group, Dr. Lance Hale., made the trek as well.

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Medical milestones:

Dr. Umana and an ophthalmologist from Nigeria completed a major milestone during the most recent trip: the 1,000th cataract operation. Cataracts are endemic in Liberia and the leading cause of blindness, says Dr. Parks, including few ophthalmologists among three million people, sun exposure (no sunglasses) and congenital cataracts.

Dr. Umana and an ophthalmologist from Nigeria completed a major milestone during the most recent trip: the 1,000th cataract operation. Cataracts are endemic in Liberia and the leading cause of blindness, says Dr. Parks, including few ophthalmologists among three million people, sun exposure (no sunglasses) and congenital cataracts.

“It’s not uncommon for us to treat children for blindness,” explained Dr. Parks.

In his role, Dr. Parks and team provided care to over 200 patients this time around, primarily for conditions such as typhoid fever, cancer, untreated hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and chronic back problems.

“I saw fewer cases of malaria this time, due to a 90-day dry season. They have pretty much the same problems we have but with added tropical and third world issues.”

Hands of Hope works to provide training and support to Waela’s physicians and nurses, which instills additional trust in the country’s medical providers.

“If the Americans trust them, then we can trust them,” Dr. Parks said of the collective mindset.

team

Click here for more on volunteer and scholarship activities associated with Hands of Hope.