Mercy Ships Surgeon Dr. Gary Parker Honored by AAOMS

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Two scholarships for AAOMS and SFOMK surgeons to volunteer onboard the Africa Mercy

I have heard it said that for hope to be credible in the future, it must be tangible in the present. The healing that our patients experience today can become the seeds of hope for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

An honorary fellowship by election was granted to Mercy Ships maxillofacial surgeon and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Parker at the opening ceremony of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) at their 94th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in San Diego.

Honored for his contribution to the healing surgical arts during more than 25 years of voluntary service, Dr. Parker has dedicated his life to serving the poor in developing nations. As resident surgeon onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, owned and operated by Mercy Ships, Dr. Parker has used his exceptional skills to transform many lives in complex cases not seen in the West.

Currently, he makes his home onboard the Africa Mercy with his wife Susan and two teenaged children, and he “commutes to work” daily down several sets of stairs onboard the 16,500-ton ship.

At the invitation of the nation’s president and health ministry, the Africa Mercy has been docked since mid-August in the port of Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, and will remain until summer of 2013. During the ten-month field service, the volunteer crew will offer surgical expertise to thousands.

“Dr. Gary’s compassionate and skillful hands have transformed many lives, and he continues to be a wonderful inspiration to patients and crew alike,” stated Don Stephens, President and Founder of Mercy Ships.

Following his oral surgery residency at UCLA, Dr. Parker spent five years working in the National Health Service in North Wales before coming to join the first Mercy Ship for a six-month tour of duty in October 1986 in Mexico. Since then, Dr. Parker has continued on to more than 15 countries. Mercy Ships focuses on serving in nations that are in the bottom 30 of the Human Development Index. Roughly 30-50% of the population in these countries have little access to health care—not only because of finances, but also because few health care facilities exist.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people dying in poor countries because they do not have access to what would be considered just basic care in developed nations. As I look at the hopelessness that vast numbers of the poor live with, I find it quite overwhelming. I try and take things one person, one day, at a time,” stated Dr. Parker.

He added, “I have heard it said that for hope to be credible in the future, it must be tangible in the present. The healing that our patients experience today can become the seeds of hope for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”

Additionally, a one-time scholarship was created by the AAOMS in collaboration with the SFOMK (the Scandinavian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) and Astra to facilitate two oral and maxillofacial surgeons for a tour of duty on the Africa Mercy alongside Dr. Parker in January 2013 in Guinea. Recipients selected for this scholarship were announced as:
Dr. Thomas Kofod, DDS, PhD, Director and Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Dept. of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Dr. Joli Chou, DMD, MD, from Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Murlin Edmund Braly DDS from Norman, Oklahoma

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ABOUT SFOMK: The Scandinavian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons was founded in Denmark on June 20, 1965. First and foremost, the association strives to support and further all developments within the fields of oral and maxillofacial surgery in Scandinavia. http://www.sfomk.org

ABOUT AAOMS: The mission of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons is to promote, protect and advance oral and maxillofacial surgery to assure excellence for surgeons and their patients. http://www.aaoms.org

ABOUT MERCY SHIPS: Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, impacting more than 2.35 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to become the face of love in action, bringing hope and healing to the poor. For more information click on http://www.mercyships.org

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Diane Rickard
Media Relations/ Mercy Ships
us.media(at)mercyships(dot)org

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Diane Rickard, Media Relations
Mercy Ships
(903) 939-7000
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