Monday, September 27, 2010

Doctor Brings Experience and Compassion to Volunteer Work

Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, Sri Lanka…the list goes on and on. Now, as a Project HOPE volunteer, Dr. Tom Hoggard can add Nicaragua and soon Panama to put him on over 20 missions. His work in refugee camps around the world has given him lots of experience. He has become an expert in tropical diseases and has already taught a class while the ship was in transit to Nicaragua. He not only teaches others, but he is learning daily about things he has never seen before now.

Whenever Tom can, he gets off the ship and goes on shore to work with the people. I had a chance yesterday to ask him about some of his impressions. Actually, one doesn’t have to ask him. He is smiling the whole time out here! He loves this work!

Tom loves seeing this cooperation between civilians and the military. That as HOPE volunteers we are being ambassadors too. We are able to bridge the gap between those that can go and those that cannot.

“This is payback time for me,” says Tom. “I have had a wonderful life as a doctor, now I can give back in return. A lot of what we do here is assurance, because we are here for such a short time, we can’t do major medical work, but we can talk to the people, get them to understand their concerns, and refer them to the right medical resources.”

He emphasized that the great local translators help a lot in understanding the situations that the people face.

“One situation that sticks out for me was the lady that rode on horseback for five hours, and then in a boat for four hours the day before to spend a few minutes with a doctor the next day,” he said.

Tom added that for him it is all worth it, with all the warmth he receives when greeted. “They are so thankful that we are here for them.”

He said that he is looking forward to taking home all the good thoughts about working with other HOPE volunteers and the military. “It has been a wonderful experience. HOPE volunteers have their hearts in the right spot and so does the military. We are little cogs in a big wheel that is quite helpful with relations between the USA and other countries we visit.”

One more thing… Tom Hoggard, MD is finding a lot more material for teaching. Watch out students at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland! You might be given a whole lot more information to study.

Photos and story by Bonnie Hudlet, HOPE's Volunteer Public Affairs Officer

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