Local Rotarians on medical mission to Uganda

Susan Schrack Wood
York East Rotary Club

Editor’s note: Susan Schrack Wood is an environmental sciences instructor at Elizabethtown College and a member of the York East Rotary Club. She and her family, who live in Hellam Township, joined other local Rotarians this month for a medical mission to Uganda, where the team is treating locals and teaching good health and medical practices. Wood is documenting the trip for The York Dispatch.

Local Rotary Clubs are using their professional talents to help Uganda build a sustainable medical system.

The York East Rotary Club, along with Rotary’s Lancaster chapter, is using three grants from Rotary International to finance a large-scale medical mission to treat the people of Uganda, considered to be one of the poorest nations in Africa.

The global grants, which add up to about $139,000, are financing an eye clinic, a dental clinic and a general medical clinic. Doctors and other health professionals are screening patients, treating their ailments and performing surgeries. In addition to those duties, the doctors also are required to educate the native health workers on diseases and health issues and train them in surgical procedures.

This type of grant is called a Vocational Training Team Grant and is a relatively new way of doing humanitarian work. The team’s leader, Connie Spark, said it is vital that medical missions provide more than just a bandage.

"It is an attempt to be more sustainable in not just helping them on a hit-and-run basis, but providing equipment and the means to use it on their own,” said Spark, whose business, Designer Family Eye Care, is donating talent and staff to the mission.

York-based Dentsply Sirona donated about $7,000 worth of dental equipment and supplies to the mission. The contributions allowed the Entebbe Hospital to add a second treatment room, something that had Ugandan dentist Martin Opumar beaming with pride.

"Thank you.Thank you so much," he said. "This room allows us to do so much more and more advanced work.  Before, we would just take out teeth.”

Dentsply market insights manager Brian Wood traveled to Uganda to assist with training.

“I am proud that Dentsply was able to be a part of such a wonderful endeavor," he said. "Working with the local dentists and improving their oral care has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”

The team will work in Entebbe, which is near the Ugandan capital city of Kampala.  Its work will include outreach in several villages and stops at two orphanages.  The team also will spend time working with the unique vision problems of an Albino population.

Rotarians from clubs in Lancaster, Hempfield, Elizabethtown and Mechanicsburg, as well as New York, Brazil and Denmark, are accompanying the York East club. The team is expected to return to York later this month.