By Dr. Steve Wilks
Settled in my seat on the way to Nicaragua in January 2013, I began chatting with the gentleman across the aisle. He was chaperoning his daughter’s church youth group for a community development project. As we exchanged stories of experiences in Nicaragua and Honduras, I learned that he was an OB-GYN physician from Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Al Odom had not done medical mission work, but was interested in our primary care model at the Rancho el Paraiso as well as surgical opportunities at Predisan (a sister mission in Catacamas) where surgical brigades are active. We have an annual plastic surgery brigade there every fall. HOI CEO Jerry Eickhoff, who was on the aisle one row up, shared a copy of our Rancho el Paraiso book with Dr. Odom. As we departed our respective ways, Jerry and me to Jinotega for site prep of future HOI trips and Al to direct community development with the youth, we committed to stay in contact.
Three months later I began to communicate with Dr. Odom about the possibility of his joining us on a fall trip that would give him the opportunity to consult with Dr. German Jimenez at the ranch clinic and also make a brief “look see” stop at the Predisan mission and surgical suites in Catacamas on the way. On November 3rd, Dr. Odom joined Fran Lewis (trauma nurse extraordinaire), Dr. Mike Norman (neurology), and me (comedian and photographer) for the week. We spent the first night in Catacamas, dining that evening with Dr. Amanda Madrid, medical director at Predisan. On Monday morning, Dr. Odom was shown the operating rooms and facilities at Predisan where our plastic surgical mission and other surgical brigades make annual trips.
We then traveled to the ranch and joined Dr. Deborah MacMillan, Dr. Sallie Coke, and their Georgia College and State University nursing brigade during their second week at the ranch. This was a bright, energetic group of graduate nurses doing their clinical work toward nurse practitioner certification at GCSU in Milledgeville, Georgia.
They visited many village clinics as well as spending time in the ranch clinic under the direction of Dr. German Jimenez. Doctors Odom and Norman delivered evening lectures on timely topics stimulating great discussion. Many wonderful connections and resources were developed from this group that will benefit HOI in the future.
Plans are underway for Dr. Odom to join our surgical brigade with plastic surgeon Dr. Randy Smith from Augusta in September. Dr. Odom will perform much needed laproscopic gynecologic surgeries at Predisan. He anticipates one or two of his partners may join us in the future.
Moral of the story: Chat with those near you on the plane to Honduras and Nicaragua. God put you in that seat for a purpose.
Steve Wilks MD
HOI Board of Directors