Train the trainers

Leaving a Deposit of Skill in Port

Dr. John Mattia, an ophthalmologist from Lunsar Baptist Eye Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, is learning a lot onboard the Africa Mercy. The opportunity, offered under the Alcon Fellowship, is being administered by Dr. Abram Wodome from Togo who previously trained under Dr. Glenn Strauss, initiator of the programme onboard.

“I thank Dr. Wodome for a working atmosphere that is very encouraging and relaxed,” said Dr. Mattia. “He communicates as if we were friends for a long time. I appreciate him. He is willing to teach every step of the way, not holding anything back.”

Dr. Mattia studied medicine under the sponsorship of the Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone and worked for them after graduation. But ophthalmology was not his first choice. “I wanted to be a general surgeon,” he admitted. “But the only hospital they had was an eye hospital.” As he trained, he became increasingly interested in the eye. After undergraduate school, he went to Nigeria for post-graduate work, earning his diploma in ophthalmology. He is now in his third year at Lunsar as the only doctor in the eye hospital, doing all the clinical and administrative work.

Last year, Dr. Mattia heard about the advanced two-week training begun by Dr. Glenn Strauss for techniques of cataract removal. The training, given onboard the Africa Mercy this year by Dr. Wodome, was just what he was seeking. Having completed eye surgeries on 51 patients in 8 working days, he will return to his hospital ready to use what he learned.

“I am confident to continue serving 1,700,000 people in the north area,” he said. Lunsar Hospital, built in 1978, has been the only eye hospital in the northern area for many years. “Doctors from America and Europe used to come to practice there, but the civil war drove them away,” he explained. “It’s not easy, but we manage.”

Dr. Mattia appreciated the organisation and efficiency onboard – and the fact that there was sufficient staff for every step of the procedures. “I have to commend Mercy Ships,” he said. “Everything is so ordered. There’s personnel for every aspect of the work. I want to thank Mercy Ships for this opportunity.”