Dr Gary Parker is the chief surgeon on the M/V Africa Mercy. He is a maxillofacial surgeon originally from the United States who trained in Wales, UK and has spent around 30 years, helping us provide free surgeries for many of the world’s neediest people.
He does a lot of cleft lip and pallet surgeries but also very large tumour removals which require techniques he has had to refine over the years. In developed nations surgeons don’t have to deal with such large tumours because patients receive surgery while the tumours are still small. But in developing nations where the help is not available or too expensive for the most people to afford the tumours just grow and grow.
However many of our surgeons cannot dedicate more than a few weeks a year. The fact that the ship holds modern well equipped medical facilities allows them to be effective even when they only come for a few weeks. Modern, clean and well equipped surgical facilities along with reliable electricity, water and oxygen supplies mean that operations can be carried out safely.
It also provides our volunteers with a secure environment with safe food, drinking water and even air conditioning which allows the doors and windows to be kept shut, keeping those nasty malaria carrying mosquitos out!
Our crew come from over 40 countries and as well as maxillofacial surgeons, we need ophthalmologists, gynaecologists, orthopaedic, plastic and general surgeons as well as anaesthesiologists of course.
The list doesn’t stop there as we need many other medical volunteers like nurses, lab technicians, biomedical equipment technicians, radiologists etc. And out of the 370 crew on board more than half are needed to just keep the ship running and provide those all-important services without which the hospital could not function; marine engineers, officers, chefs, IT specialists, electricians and welders just to name a few.
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