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Long hours and little thanks

Other physicians creatively manage heavy case loads far afield and far from a medical support system. Here's a sampling . . .

Issue: "Daniel of the Year," Dec. 18, 2010

Jean Claude Bernard, age 61, has been the medical director at Hopital De Fermathe in Haiti for 35 years. The 84-bed hospital, located on the Baptist Haiti Mission campus south of Port-au-Prince, hasn't stopped serving about 2,000 patients a month though it was damaged in the January quake, and hospital physician Gerard Agenor was killed. Fermathe quickly was overwhelmed by patients needing extensive care, and Bernard was one of two doctors on call at the time. He lives on campus and remains on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He was soon joined by a team of 14 stranded medical workers who offered assistance. When Bernard is not surviving natural disasters, he trains resident physicians to become the future doctors of Haiti-as all three of his own children have done.

When Dan Stephens was a boy of about 10 growing up in Africa, he wrote what he recalls was "an angry letter" to his father's mission headquarters, complaining about his dad's long hours and the lack of other physicians at Karanda Mission Hospital, now a 130-bed facility that's a three-hour drive north of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. Over the years, said Stephens, now 55 and himself a surgeon, "the Lord convicted me that no one else had the experience or background to do what he does . . . except me." Stephens returned to Karanda in 1991 and serves alongside his father, surgeon Roland Stephens, now 80. The elder Stephens continues to perform about 15 surgical procedures a day and has not taken a furlough since 1995. Dan Stephens also performs surgery-from removing cataracts to orthopedics- as well as oversees the facility, including a residency program and an HIV/AIDS treatment program that provides anti-retroviral drugs to over 3,000 patients. Each month, Karanda also treats 15 new babies with hydrocephalus, thanks to some early guidance from Dr. Dick Bransford.

Dan Priest, 38, was in "a high state of readiness" for an approaching cholera outbreak in mid-November at Rumginae Hospital in Papua New Guinea. An Australian, Priest, along with his wife and three children, has spent six of the last 10 years at the remote hospital. Just 6 degrees south of the equator at 180 feet above sea level, tropical diseases are prevalent: Malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis, and childhood malnutrition are common. Priest also runs a 60-student community health worker program and reaches 16 rural outposts to provide medical care with the help of two Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots based at Rumginae. Belief in magic and fear of evil, illness-causing spirits is strong: "The message of Christ's victory over death brings freedom from fear. Our desire is to see staff, students, patients, and the local people develop a firm biblical foundation, grow in their faith, and continuously feed from God's word."

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Bill Becknell, 66, has worked in Russia since 1993. He founded Moscow's Agape Medical Center, a Christian family practice center with outreach expeditions to rural areas, including Siberia and unreached people groups who live in the tundra. Becknell focuses on basic family practice care and health education.

Rebecca Naylor, 66, arrived in India in 1974 as a medical missionary with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). She served as a surgeon at Bangalore Baptist Hospital and became chief of medical staff four years later, becoming the hospital's administrator in 1984. She founded an adjoining nursing school that now bears her name, and found time while serving at the hospital to start a choir, teach Bible studies, lead chapels, and supervise building projects-all with an outreach strategy to the south India region's 53 million people. Naylor retired from IMB last year but continues to serve as a healthcare consultant and to visit the hospital every six months.

David Thompson, 62, grew up on the mission field in Cambodia, and as a pre-med student at Geneva College learned that his parents had been killed while trying to surrender to North Vietnamese soldiers during the 1968 Tet Offensive. In 1977 Thompson and his wife (whose father was killed by Viet Cong while working at a leprosy hospital) helped to establish a new medical facility in Gabon, west central Africa, with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Today that small dispensary is the 110-bed, full-service Bongolo Hospital. Its team has helped to plant four new churches in the vicinity, and in 1996 Thompson helped to start the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS), an organization to support surgical training programs for African doctors at existing Christian hospitals throughout the continent.
-with reporting by Kristin Chapman and Jamie Dean


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