SpecialtyCare’s Shannon Clark recently participated in a medical mission trip to Jamaica. She details how she prepared for the trip and what she took away from this remarkable experience.
Why did you choose this mission specifically?
I initially heard about the opportunity for the mission trip from Christy Kisner. She sent out an email to the South IONM Region with information about the trip and how to apply. I felt as though it was fate. I sent in my application and was selected to participate based on my accomplishments and experience. I included in my application that “…as a Christian, it’s my personal belief that God has blessed me with a special skill set. I also believe that I should use this particular skill set to help other people. What better way than a life-changing surgery!”
Do you have a history of participating in similar mission trips?
I’d always been interested in serving others on mission trips, but I’d never had the opportunity until this specific mission trip.
What did you do to prepare for this trip?
I feel as though my whole career helped me prepare for this mission trip. I’ve worked in IONM in Nashville for over nine years and, for a majority of that time, I’ve been a preferred clinician for deformity correction surgeries with multiple surgeons in our market for adult and pediatric patients alike.
Did you go with a team?
There was a team that I went with on this mission. The team included two pediatric orthopedic surgeons (one from Connecticut and one from Louisiana), one fellow (also from Connecticut), two implantation reps, a surgical scrub tech (who worked with one of the surgeons regularly), and two IONM clinicians, myself included. In addition to these individuals, there were surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, students, and other technicians at the home hospital who contributed to the mission’s success. The founder of Duncan Tree Foundation organized the trip and served as a point of contact for everyone on the team.
What is a moment you’ll never forget from this mission?
On the clinic day when we met the patients and their families, one of the fathers made a comment that he loved my dentures. It caught me off-guard. I thanked him, but it struck me as odd. Then, I realized that this man had no concept of dental care or that these could possibly be my real teeth. It truly put things into perspective for me how proper dental care isn’t necessarily something the rest of the world has access to.
On the final OR day, we were packed up in the van to leave the hospital and were asked to wait because one of the fathers had a gift for Dr. Lee, one of the surgeons. When the man arrived, he had a large box with several different souvenirs, one for each of us. There were bowls carved out of wood, different carved wall hangings, and bamboo pencil holders (which is the gift I received). With tears streaming down his face, he told us that he could never repay us for the gift his daughter had received and that his family was forever grateful. I treasure my pencil holder, and it sits on my desk at home to remember my trip and the wonderful memories.
If you could encourage anyone to take a medical mission trip, what would you say?
This medical mission to Jamaica for pediatric scoliosis correction surgeries was an incredible experience, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It made me a better clinician and person in being able to serve others and to see just how blessed I truly am.