The History of Medical Missionaries

Founded in 1997, Medical Missionaries is a volunteer group of more than 200 doctors, nurses, dentists, and others who work to improve the health of the poor in the U.S. and throughout the world. We provide medical care, medical supplies, clothing, and food to the areas we serve. Medical Missionaries is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is listed in GuideStar.

We are pleased to provide a brief history of the founding and growth of Medical Missionaries:


1997

In May of 1997 Dr. Gil Irwin was asked by All Saints Church (Manassas, VA) to lead a medical team to Banica in the Dominican Republic (close to the border with Haiti) to assess healthcare needs of the people there. Over the next months, volunteers were recruited, and supplies and medicines were collected for a trip to the remote mountainous villages of Banica, where the villagers had no access to medical care.

Hiking to provide medical care in remote areasThe trip was planned for October. The team consisted of 2 doctors, 4 nurses, one civilian, one missionary priest, and a local volunteer. From Banica, they traveled by foot and mule up steep trails, carrying their backpacks, supplies, and water, taking anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to reach each village. During the 2-week trip, the team traveled to 6 different villages, and treated hundreds of patients every day. Some had walked with their families for 2 or 3 days to see a doctor. Most had never seen a doctor before. The team gave life-saving vaccinations, treated infections, and saw medical conditions that could have been prevented with basic medical care.

Seeing the dire lack of basic healthcare, the team realized the situation would not be greatly changed as a result of this one trip, and started discussion of how to best help these people moving forward.

The seed had been planted. This was the start of Medical Missionaries.
 

1998 - 1999

Medical teams continued to make trips to provide medical and surgical care in Banica, DR, and Thomassique (just across the border in Haiti).

During this time, a Twinning Program was officially started between St. Thomas Church (Thomassique, Haiti) and the U.S. parishes of All Saints Church and St. Henry's. Twinning Programs are designed to bring together a parish from each country to decide how they could help each other.

It was realized that to meet our goal of bringing healthcare to the region would require extensive planning and a more formal structure for the growth of Medical Missionaries, and many volunteers worked together on strategic planning for the next phases of the organization’s growth.


2000 - 2008

St. Joseph Clinic in Haiti, opened by Medical Missionaries in 2007In 2000, Medical Missionaries received its certificate of incorporation in the State of Virginia, and received official IRS status as a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit charity.

Medical Missionaries leadership started plans to build a permanent clinic in Thomassique, and construction was started in 2005.

St. Joseph Clinic formally opened its doors on June 4, 2007. The Clinic was open five days a week for general consultation and 24/7 for emergency and maternity care. In its first years, the Clinic treated an average of 1,300 patients each month (more than 15,000 per year), and facilitated about 25 births per month (300 per year).


2009 and on

After the clinic was operating for a few years, we saw additional needs to address: first, establishing programs that would help prevent some of the more common ailments that were regularly seen at the clinic; second, bringing healthcare to villagers living in remote outlying villages of Thomassique.In response to these needs, the following programs were introduced, starting in 2009:

Maternity and Infant Care Program at Medical Missionaries St Joseph Clinic in HaitiMaternal and Infant Care Program
Facilitating safe births has always been a central goal of St. Joseph Clinic. For the first few years, the Clinic's nurses helped women with deliveries. In 2012 the program was expanded to include training midwives on the Clinic staff, and improving prenatal and postnatal care.

The program also includes training of traditonal birth attendants (Matwons) who facilitate at-home births in the outlying villages. In an area where an estimated 75% of all births are at home, this has made an enormous difference. In 2015, 30 trained Matwons facilitated more than 1350 at-home births; in 2016, that number rose to over 1500.


Water Purification Program
We introduced Klorfasil, a home-based system that effectively removes contaminants. Thanks to a grant from the Gerard Health Foundation, we were able to subsidize the initial cost of purchasing the system for several years.Implementation of the Water Purification Program began in earnest early in 2010, with the outbreak of a cholera epidemic, and has continued to grow each year since.

Treating Childhood Malnutrition
We saw many children suffering from severe malnutrition. We learned about a peanut-butter-based nutritional supplement, Medika Mamba, that rescued children from malnutrition in about two months, and partnered with Meds and Food for Kids to secure Medika Mamba, and introduced a program that is run by Clinic nurses.

School Lunch Program in HaitiSchool Lunch Program
Medical Missionaries worked with Feed My Starving Children, an organization that provides the food packets, and introduced a program that provides a hot lunch every school day. For many children, this was the only full meal they would have that day. Since its beginning, the school lunch program was expanded to feedover 1,000 students each school day in 8 to 10 schools.

Bon Sel (Good Salt) Program
A lack of iodine in the villagers’ diets causes a prevalence of lymphatic filariasis and delayed brain development in children. Bon Sel, a fortified salt product developed by the University of Notre Dame Haiti Project, has the potential of eliminating those two diseases. Our Bon Sel Program works with local distributors to make Bon Sel available, and conducts education programs on the importance of using Bon Sel.

Community Health Centers
About half the residents in the Thomassique region live in six outlying villages, and they would walk two to four hours to get to the Clinic, sometimes with serious illnesses or to deliver babies. We explored how we might provide at least basic healthcare services closer to where those villagers lived, and started Community Health Centers in these outlying villages. Community Health Workers were chosen in each village to coordinate care. They were trained to do basic triage, refer patients to the Clinic when necessary, and conduct education sessions each month. Doctors and nurses from the Clinic visited each village every month to conduct mobile clinics.

Over the following years we also introduced a program to train Matwons (traditional birth attendants) who work throughout the remote villages to assist women through safe pregnancy and delivery, and learn to spot high-risk pregnancies that needed to be referred to the Clinic for care.

These programs continue as ongoing services of St. Joseph Clinic. Medical Missionaries remains committed to a long-term presence in Thomassique, and continues to partner with other organizations to launch and sustain life-saving programs.
 

In the USA & Worldwide

Medical Missionaries sending medical supplies worldwideMedical Missionaries has also responded to requests for help in the USA and worldwide.

We started to work with partner groups to send 40-foot sea containers of medical supplies and equipment to help build healthcare infrastructure in poor areas of the world, particularly Africa. Closer to home, we have given items such as clothing, health supplies and medical equipment to those in need in Virginia and Washington, DC. We have also provided disaster relief supplies in the USA.

Through 2016, we have sent 165 sea containers of health equipment and supplies worldwide to those in need, supported 30 local health groups, made over 300 trips to Appalachia and American Indian reservations in Oklahoma and South Dakota with clothes and household items, and sent disaster relief for victims of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes in the USA.

 

  You Can Help Medical Missionaries: Donate now to support our clinic or health related projects;  Form a Medical Missionaries Chapter in your area;  Volunteer to help in the U.S. or abroad.

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Medical Missionaries' partners in improving health

 
 
Project Hope
 
 
 

Feed My Starving Children

 Meds & Food for Kids

 Project Hope

 Catholic Medical
Mission Board

 Klorfasil

 Vitamin Angels  


©2017  Medical Missionaries, 9590 Surveyor Ct., Manassas, VA 20110, (703) 335-1800.   A 501(c)(3) corporation.