Medical Missionaries bring love and care to American Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Three retired medical doctors and their spouses are serving a unique mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Tropical Hospital in Tutuila, American Samoa.
Because of licensing issues, most medical missionaries that serve around the world are used in a medical advisory capacity. In American Samoa, however, American medical missionaries are able to practice in the LBJ Hospital performing surgeries and procedures and are able to prescribe medications.
Dr. James Gebhard, orthopedic spine surgeon, along with his wife, Helen; Dr. Harold Walker, radiologist, and his wife, Kellie; and Dr. Eric Carter, cardiologist and wife, Allison, are using their years of accumulated medical and life experiences to continue to bless lives.
Sisters Gebhard and Walker serve by implementing much needed programs throughout American Samoa that target health awareness. Sister Carter was a nurse by profession and is able to contribute her medical expertise.
The doctors and their wives are thankful for the opportunity to bless lives in American Samoa and their service is most welcomed.
Dr. Akapusi Ledua, the Acting Chief Executive Officer atLBJ Tropical Hospital, expressed his deep appreciation for the missionary doctors and their wives. He says that he has noticed the way they seem to elevate the medical culture at the hospital.
Dr Ledua said, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done a lot for this community. They continue to reach out and that is very much appreciated. Together we can move our healthcare to a new level.”
The medical missionaries recently answered a call from the territory’s health department to assist local medical professionals care for people at two remote clinics on the isolated Manu’a Islands. The missionary doctors and their wives helped attend to 104 patients during their visit.
The three small Manu’a islands, Ofa, Olosega and Ta’u are about 100 miles from Tutuila. Flights to Ofu Island are sporadic and contingent upon the weather. Travellers from Ofu to Olosega cross on a connecting bridge and Ta’u is reached by boat.
While in Manu’a, the missionaries appreciated the exquisite scenery as well as the warmth of the local people. Because there are no congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the islands, they joined the worship services of the Congregational Christian Church in Ofu, and were warmly welcomed by the pastor and congregation.
“We worship the same God,” the pastor said.
The missionaries also enjoyed a visit to an elementary school on Olosega Island, where they educated children about exercise and nutrition. They also encouraged the students to consider preparing themselves for medical careers as there are shortages of practitioners in the islands.
The three missionary couples treasured their “once in a lifetime experience” in the gorgeous, remote islands.
Sister Kellie Walker noted, “The residents of these beautiful islands are some of the most kind, gracious and welcoming people one could ever have the pleasure of knowing.”
Dr. Harold Walker was particularly touched by the patients who came to the clinic, many with a similar complaint.
“The patients had many health issues, but the complaint that moved many of them to come into the clinic was ‘I can’t read my Bible.’ We referred about 20 people to doctors in Tutuila to get their eyes checked. All of our patients were incredibly grateful for our visit, and it was gratifying to feel like we were making a difference.”