Mission Natuvu Creek, Fiji
When SJO President and CEO Steven C. Moreau (below, far left) traveled to Fiji in May on his second medical mission, he hand carried a box of corneas, donated by Tissue Bank International and shown below. The trip was orchestrated by SJO NICU Medical Director Sudeep Kukreja, MD (below, right), to Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island and home to 130,000 people with limited health knowledge and resources. Steve and his wife Anne, a retired nurse, and the team visited the Mission at Natuvu Creek, an eye and dental clinic established by Orange County ophthalmologist Tom Tooma, MD, and wife, Marta Tooma, DDS.
“At the clinic we had plenty of hands to help, but while traveling there and going through Customs it was my job to negotiate not having that box X-rayed or otherwise compromised,” Steve recalls. “Ophthalmologist Aisha Simjee, MD, soon transplanted one of the corneas into a 34-year-old woman who had been blind in one eye. The patient came back the next day with her husband to present me with a painted coconut shell adorned like a turtle. Having her look me in the eye to thank me for carrying her cornea to Fiji was the highlight of my trip.”
Allan Akerman, MD, OB/Gyn, and SJO Social Worker Marjorie MacDonald, MSW, were also among the 14 local volunteers and two dozen area students on hand to help. After clinic work ended, the Moreaus visited an adjacent Fijian island, Taveuni, where St. Joseph Hospital staff surgeons Jeffrey Johnsrud, MD, Anita Gregory, MD, and anesthesiologist Clifford Char, MD, were performing surgeries on a separate medical mission.
“For my wife, myself and others,” says Steve, “humanitarian missions are an opportunity to take our skills and give back while visiting interesting places around the world. It lifts our spirits to help out. I can also spend quality time with our doctors, separate from our daily pressures we have in healthcare. We come back with a greater appreciation for that community’s materially poor yet happy way of life, as well as what we have here at home.”
Dr. Kukreja is assembling a team to Tanzania on August 8. Details will soon be given on https://www.arpanglobal.org.