Aust surgeons serve PNG patients through YWAM program

By: Kelly Sullivan
01 September, 2014

Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships and Port Moresby General Hospital's ophthalmology unit recently collaborated to serve patients with serious eye disease in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Local ophthalmologist and Chair of the PNG National Prevention of Blindness Committee, Dr Jambi Garap said the partnership between the YWAM team of volunteer nurses and doctors and the Port Moresby General Hospital had been beneficial on multiple levels.

"I am really proud of the effort of our team day in day out here at PMGH. Having this partnership with YWAM adds another level of support. We are really enjoying working together - it's particularly beneficial to our young doctors," Dr Garap said.

The combined PMGH and YWAM teams have already provided 19 seriously vision-impaired patients with sight-restoring cataract surgery including 18-year old patient, Siosi who had cataracts as a result of diabetes.

YWAM MSA's Community Development Manager, Dr Sarah Dunn said it was a very fulfilling experience to bring happiness to patients through the joint effort.

"Siosi has not been able to attend school and is now looking forward to going back – he had big smiles today," Dr Dunn said.

Since 2010, the YWAM team have been performing eye surgeries at rural locations in Gulf and Western, supported by their Training and Medical Ship. 

During National Health Week this year, they were particularly focused on collaborating with PNG health professionals in the nation's capital.

"Real strength" in team effort

Dr Dunn acknowledged the opportunity the new partnership offered.

"It is a privilege to be partnering with these very committed Papua New Guinean eye specialists. There is a real strength in collaboration and peer support and we are seeing the fruit of that even in these first few days of operating side by side," Dr Dunn said.

YWAM Medical Ships won an international Excellence in Ophthalmology Innovation Award (XOVA) in 2013, and prize funds have been used to purchase special microscope equipment that allows colleagues to observe a surgeon at work, to better learn or provide close peer support.

The new equipment is a big step toward assisting with training opportunities. Dr Dunn also acknowledged that YWAM is very fortunate to have supportive donors such as Alcon that help provide many of the articles needed for surgery.

"Along with our committed professional volunteers, this means a life-changing but expensive surgery becomes possible."