Medical Mission

MME doctors try to create a rapport with their patients, in spite of language barriers. UAB's Dr. Nathan Alexander shakes the small hand of a little girl, who-with several other UAB plastic surgeons-he treated for cleft palate, as she and her father depart Regional Hospital, Ambato. Alexander, senior resident specializing in plastic and and reconstructive surgery, was a first-time volunteer for MME.


by Meg McKinney

Photographing Medical Mission Ecuador 2011 was an exciting invitation to the world of medicine, patients, and hospitals in a developing country. I asked a lot of questions, learned surgery room etiquette and wore scrubs every day.

Working in unfamiliar situations among indigenous cultures is challenging, and this group of 80 volunteers—doctors, nurses, staff—gave their best work.

Every February for 19 years, MME has traveled to Ambato, a city with elevation of about 9,000 feet. Many volunteers are veterans with five, eight, and up to 19 annual trips, from 13 states. All travel and work at their own expense.

MME goes to work with energy and zeal: 547 evaluations, 519 pre-surgery evaluations; 101 reconstructed plastic surgeries, ENT, Ob/Gyn; 27 pediatric orthopedics; 23 ophthalmology, neurosurgeries; total 151 surgeries for the week.

The physical therapy team examined, evaluated, treated 380 patients; 60 patients received splints and special shoes; four patients were measured in 2010, and received prosthesis in 2011.  Ten wheelchairs were given to children.

For information: Beatriz.Engels@ccc.uabedu; or

“Cleft has been my love for the past nine years,” Elizabeth Baker, speech pathologist, at Children’s Health System, UAB’s Cleft and Craniofacial Team, says. She enthusiastically meets a child for speech therapy on evaluation day. Baker worked with children with cleft palate, to improve speech patterns.

A crowd waits on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. to meet the American doctors.

The parents of an infant girl with microtia (unformed outer ear) patiently wait as Dr. Jobe Fix, UAB Professor of Surgery, standing, leads an evaluation with Dr. Dean Cerio, UAB Instructor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and an Ecuadoran medical student provides Spanish translations.

Many ladies with relatives and friends wait in a hallway to meet UAB’s Dr. Brian Gleason, Ob/Gyn Professor.

UAB’s Dr. Alphonse Yonfa, anesthesiologist, and another doctor, review a patient’s x-rays to determine if the young man can have surgery. Dr. Yonfa, who grew up in Ambato, answers parents’ questions about surgical procedures for children.

A mother presents her son’s microtia (unformed outer ear) with hopes of getting plastic surgery to construct an outer ear. Their wait was successful; her son had surgery on the last day.

It’s a kick! Boys play soccer on a hospital lawn while their parents wait in line. Ten soccer balls were donated by Hibbett Sports to give to patients.

One Response to “Medical Mission”

  1. Tracie Fair says:

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