Collie Oudkerk and Wayne Sampson knew what to expect when they decided to volunteer for a medical mission 10 years ago in the deprived areas of Guyana.
Both founding members of (HERG), Health and Educational Relief for Guyana, the two young Guyanese-born doctors made a commitment to serve the people for as long as it took to educate and heal them.
Sampson, who specializes in internal medicine, works in an inner-city clinic in Tallahassee, Florida.
“I felt obligated to give back to my country,” he said, after getting a sense of the huge gap in education and basic healthcare systems between Guyana and the Western world.
A graduate of Brooklyn College, and Howard University, Sampson explained that the integrity of its healthcare system is the foundation of any society; and since he had volunteered his medical services in underprivileged areas in America, why not his in own country.
Dr. Sampson’s mission is not only to deliver care to patients, but also to “engage the local healthcare professions so that when we leave, there is continuity and improvement when we return.”
He listed emergency physicians, family practitioners and surgeons who make up the dynamic medical team that have treated thousands of patients in both the urban and rural areas of Guyana.
“We are making a tremendous impact and we are raising the level of expectation,” he said. “In general, there should be a high standard of care. That that is why we will continue our missions so that patients are more educated about their disease.
Sampson, who completed his residency at the Washington Hospital Center, praised HERG for the outstanding work they are doing.
He encourages Guyanese and other Caribbean professionals who are doing relatively well in the U.S. to reach out to their homelands.
“I hope we are setting a good examples for others to follow,” he said.
“Every time we decided that we have done enough, we go back we are faced with many more medical challenges, said Oudkirk, an emergency room physician with Brookdale University Center.
He credits a trip to Jamaica with colleagues as the driving force for his first mission to Guyana.
“Volunteering on these missions is infectious, especially when I witness how despondent patients are in the hospitals, and how sad the healthcare situation is in Guyana”.
Oudkerk who saw the extensive need for medical and surgical care, wants to bring Guyana up to par with the rest of the world.
“That is the reason why, whenever we are on a mission, we teach a medic in the remote areas some of the more advanced medicines and protocols that are needed, so that patients can be treated for a prolonged period.