By Laurie Teter
(This article was published by MDNews http://viewer.e-digitaledition.com/issue/37170/21)
Mission work captured the interest of Clark Gerhart, M.D., a long time ago. In fact, it played a large part in his decision to go into the medical profession. After years of training and setting up a practice, he was finally able to fulfill his early yearning for mission work. He provided disaster relief in New York City after 9/11, in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. In addition to his domestic work, Dr. Gerhart has traveled to India and China on short-term missions, and has been to West Africa four times in the last two and a half years.
Dr. Gerhart, a general surgeon at Surgical Specialists of Wyoming Valley, firmly believes medical missions are not as much about what you can accomplish in one week as about building relationships where you can continue to interact with people.
"There are tremendously qualified, skilled, intelligent people in these countries," says Dr. Gerhart. "The little bit we do as Westerners in a week is small compared to what we can accomplish if we support the people in these countries all year long. Just given the opportunity, resources and training, they can do great things in their countries. That's what I'd like to see happen."
The most profound impact mission work has had on Dr. Gerhart is his greater appreciation for what Americans have in the United States and what we take for granted - not just in the medical profession, but in life. In regard to medicine, Dr. Gerhart has learned how to manage patients in other countries without all the expensive resources available in the United States. He has also discovered that he can treat people successfully without reams of paperwork.
From his work overseas, Dr. Gerhart has realized that the idea of being on a mission is lifelong. To be successful, one has to embrace the culture, learn the language of the community and build relationships. This lesson has been a tremendous help in his practice at home.
"It's important to work within the culture rather than forcing your culture on someone." expresses Dr. Gerhart.
Within the medical community, support of missions can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. Group practices that are willing to let associates and employees take time-off; support of those who are traveling; and finding creative ways to save and reuse valuable medical equipment are all important to mission work. Equipment and devises are available; however, the storing and shipping of these resources is expensive.