National Doctor’s Day: Volunteer Doctors at Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan
March 30th is National Doctor’s Day. For many regions of the world, there are simply not enough doctors per capita, and many people will live their whole lives without ever being able to see a physician. At CMMB, volunteer physicians travel to countries around the world to support health facilities and build clinical capacity.
Volunteer Physicians in Sudan: Dr. Jim Peck and Dr. Mike Pendleton
In early February, Dr. Jim Peck and Dr. Mike Pendleton returned from their volunteer work with Dr. Tom Catena in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan. Dr. Peck supported the surgical aspects of the work at Mother of Mercy Hospital, while Dr. Pendleton focused on the medical and pediatric elements. Dr. Peck has made four volunteer medical trips to the hospital and Dr. Pendleton has made two trips.
“There’s really a legacy being left here.”
Upon return from their most recent trip, the doctors shared about their experiences in the field and why they chose to volunteer with CMMB. “The reason I do this is because I really believe in paying it forward,” said Dr. Pendleton. “I didn’t get to where I was with a huge amount of help. There’s really a legacy being left here, courtesy of CMMB. You’re making it possible for somebody to train up and build capacity.”
Mother of Mercy Hospital and Dr. Tom Catena
Mother of Mercy Hospital is located in the remote region of the Nuba Mountains in the southern part of Sudan. It is one of only a few healthcare centers in the politically unstable and food insecure region. Mother of Mercy Hospital serves a population of more than a million. The clinics in the region lack necessary supplies, and healthcare workers have little to no formal training. Basic health services in the region are thus extremely limited.
Dr. Tom Catena has been an integral part of the hospital. He helped to establish Mother of Mercy Hospital, a 435-bed facility, which opened in 2008 and remains the only major provider of medical care in the region. He is the only medical doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital.
“One of the biggest positives of Dr. Tom’s is that he’s trained his staff so well in the operating room.”
“One of the biggest positives of Dr. Tom’s is that he’s trained his staff so well in the operating room,” said Dr. Peck. In the field, CMMB volunteer physicians work directly with hospital leadership—like Dr. Tom Catena—and clinical staff on health service delivery and clinical capacity building.
Strengthening Health Facilities Capacity
Dr. Peck and Dr. Pendleton highlighted the work being done at Mother of Mercy Hospital to strengthen the local health systems. “Capacity is being built within the hospital. They’re building a school. They have outreach workers and clinical, community health workers. All of this is huge and is a result of being there for as long as they have. That’s also part of the legacy of what CMMB can do,” said Dr. Pendleton. “It’s one thing to treat. It’s another thing to teach.”
“Capacity is being built within the hospital. It’s one thing to treat. It’s another thing to teach.”
Dr. Peck added his thoughts on the longevity of the program. “I am most encouraged that this is going to be a sustainable program, and that it’s going to be sustainable with locals. And that, I think, with the school that Mike can teach at, it’ll even be better. So, I’m most encouraged.”
Dr. Peck and Dr. Pendleton agreed that capacity was being increased exponentially through training, and that Mother of Mercy Hospital is well positioned to improve the delivery of health services, but still has some facility needs.
Existing Needs at Mother of Mercy Hospital
To continue to best serve the community, Mother of Mercy Hospital’s facilities need additional resources to be upgraded. Dr. Peck and Dr. Pendleton shared one critical upgrade required: the electrical system. The physicians explained that there were only four electrical outlets in the whole hospital, which are not always reliable.
“We had a couple of times in the operating room where we were operating in the middle of the night with headlights only, ” said Dr. Peck (pictured above wearing a headlight) “Which is, you know, tough when you’re in the belly. You’re trying to operate with the headlight because the whole hospital’s electricity went out, and there’s a lack of fuel in the generator.”
“I am most encouraged that this is going to be a sustainable program, and that it’s going to be sustainable with locals.”
The electrical system has caused issues for some essential services—like putting people on oxygen—which require electricity. Hospital staff would have to move people to different wards, which could be problematic—like moving a woman or child to the male ward.
Volunteer physicians are an integral part of healthcare systems to provide healthier lives worldwide. CMMB is proud to support health facilities through fielding volunteer physicians and through training. We would like to thank doctors across the world for all their work this National Doctor’s Day. In the words of Dr. Pendleton, “It is one thing to treat. It is another to teach.”