On Our Way to Mizque!

Fast facts about the Multi-Specialty Mission Trip that begins September 28

by Betsy Station

●      On Friday, September 28, a group of 18 Solidarity Bridge missioners departs for a week of service and learning at a public hospital in the municipality of Mizque (pronounced MEES-kay), Bolivia. It’s the first visit by a Solidarity Bridge mission team to Dr. Augusto Morales Asua Hospital, 93 miles southeast of Cochabamba.

Dr. August Morales Asua public hospital, our host and partner

Dr. August Morales Asua public hospital, our host and partner

●      It won’t be first visit to Mizque by our partners at Puente de Solidaridad. Since 2016, they have organized three successful laparoscopic surgery campaigns at the public hospital. In addition to building strong relationships with local medical partners and officials, the three campaigns served 44 patients with minimally invasive hernia, gallbladder, and colon surgeries—procedures that are often difficult for rural patients to access.

●      Our largest mission effort of the year, the Multi-Specialty Mission Trip (MSMT) provides hundreds of patients with care and consultation. Over five days, US specialists will offer clinics in cardiology, dermatology, family practice, gynecology, and pediatrics. General surgeons will work closely with local partners to provide a limited number of surgeries. The 2018 mission team also includes three nurses, a physical therapist, interpreters, support staff, and a veteran chaplain—Father Bob Oldershaw, who is returning to mission work after a one-year hiatus.

Patients during a recent campaign in MIzque

Patients during a recent campaign in MIzque

●      The population of Mizque province is small (about 41,000 inhabitants) and the hospital serves many people from remote rural communities. Most mizqueños are indigenous citizens of Quechuan descent. Life is difficult for those who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The Human Development Index for Mizque is among the lowest in Bolivia. The income of families from the puna (high plateau) is estimated at $200 to $250 per year.

●      Building bridges of solidarity with a new partner hospital and patient population, we have much to learn. “When a mission site is new, we stay nimble to the reality of our partner hospital,” says Solidarity Bridge executive director and trip leader Ann Rhomberg. “We also remind ourselves to pack plenty of patience, trust, and cultural humility.”

●      The learning will be mutual as US doctors offer Bolivian interns, residents, and physicians the opportunity to participate in mentored surgeries and clinics. The exchange of ideas will continue throughout the week, as clinic doctors give lectures on topics requested by the Mizque hospital leadership.

●      Watch this space for trip updates and stop by our Evanston office to learn more. We’ll have much to share before and after the MSMT team returns to the United States on Sunday, October 7. Two more mission trips—a gynecology trip to Sucre and neurosurgery trip to Santa Cruz—are planned for this fall. As Ann says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Betsy Station is a communications and development volunteer at Solidarity Bridge, traveling as a first-time missioner to Mizque.