ARAPAHOE PEAK GLOBAL HEALTH PROJECT – Africa
By 2007 the Arapahoe Peak Health Center had been up and running for 3 years. Getting the practice off the ground had been a huge challenge, but by 2007, things were functioning smoothly and the business owners (Randy, monica and myself) felt that we were ready to expand into a different realm. All three of us have over the years expressed the desire to do medical mission work, internationally. So in 2007, we decided to start the Arapahoe Peak World Vision Fund. Our original plan entailed the practice supporting medical mission, with the owners going on a trip each year for the 1st 3 years and also to include family members on the trip. Our goal was to not only serve the needy, but also to reinvigorate each of us in our practice of medicine and also to expose our families to the world outside Evergreen and the U.S.
I was lucky enough to be the first to go. I knew that I would need to make the trip in the summer of 2009, but was having difficulty finding the right trip. With the pressure on to make a decision, we were at our church’s (Rockland Community Church), Christmas Eve service and there was mention of their annual trip to Tanzania. After some investigation, this trip felt like the right fit. Because of connections through the church, friends and my families’ involvement in AfricAid (www.AfricAid.com), I was able to get the opportunity to do medical mission work at the Selian Hospital in Arusha. My family, meanwhile, would get the opportunity to work with the rest of the church group at the girl’s school doing construction on a new science lab.
After lots of planning, shots and travel, we arrived in Tanzania in early June, 2009. The Selian Hospital is about as far from American medicine as you can get: multiple patients to a ward room, no food service (family members have to cook for patients), no screens on the windows, no MRI, no EKG machine, and limited medicines. But despite these disadvantages, the doctors there do amazing work with the patients, most of whom are very sick. AIDs, malaria and TB are commonplace so I learned a lot about treating these diseases that I rarely see here. Also working in a hospital setting brought back lots of memories from my training days .
While I was at the hospital each day, my wife and kids would be working at the school, but we would be together each night with the rest of the group to share our experiences. The profound poverty of this country was continually striking, but more impressive is the friendly welcoming nature of the Tanzanian people in general.
In addition to the service part of the trip we were able to get in some travel in the country, with my wife and daughter doing several days of safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, while my son and I were lucky enough to summit Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet.
In every way our trip was a success. I came back with a new energy for practicing medicine. I really have new appreciation for all of the medical technology that we often take for granted here. But I also have greater appreciation for how much money and energy is wasted here in the practice of medicine. We all saw a part of the world where life is much harder and know how deeply we are blessed living in Evergreen, Colorado. And as most people who have been on a mission trip say, we truly believe we gained far more from this trip than we gave.
The friendship and support of my partners, Randy and Monica, whose generosity allowed this trip to happen, will never be forgotten. I can’t wait for their turn to go in 2010 for Randy and 2011 for Monica. In addition, the support of the practice, Dr Buchwald, Dr Gonzales and the rest of the staff at Arapahoe Peak were essential for the success of my trip and I am indebted to all of them.