Theresa with the children in Ghana

Medical Mission in Tanzania

Extraordinary Care experienced in Romania

Theresa, the director of childcare services for Intermountain Healthcare, oversees all six of Intermountain Healthcare's Child Development Centers. During her 20 years of employment with Intermountain, Theresa's positions have always included working with children.  But her love and service to children stretches far beyond the Intermountain west.

It all started with a trip to Romania over 15 years ago where Theresa witnessed horrible poverty and knew there had to be something she could do to help. She has been helping ever since. Theresa says, “I was completely taken aback by the needs of the children. It is different when you see poverty first hand. Thousands were orphaned by the fall of communism. From that point on I knew I had to do anything within my power to help these children.”

Since that first trip, Theresa has assembled many humanitarian aid teams to travel to Romania. These included trips to the small village of Doclin, Romania, where several projects, were completed by Theresa and her team. They installed a new playground for a school built in 1776, and added bathrooms in the school to replace outhouses. She’s instructed the children on tooth brushing and personal hygiene and was also instrumental in bringing a medical clinic that offered health assessments, doctor examinations, dental screenings, and pharmacy care.

On another mission, Theresa provided a basketball camp for the children of Beius, Romania. “One of the most meaningful projects I was able to be a part of was the Orphan’s Christmas 2009 in Romania,” says Theresa. “This event brought public officials and community leaders together to recognize the needs of orphaned children in Romania. We also provided Christmas gifts and a special dinner for the orphaned children.”

Bringing hope to a far-away land

Two breast cancer experts from Intermountain Medical Center visited Tanzania to help establish the nation’s first clinic that will screen and treat women for the disease. Currently, breast cancer screening in the East African nation is fairly low-tech— mostly manual exams done by health workers. Many women who are suspected of having breast cancer never receive more definitive diagnostic tests. And usually when breast cancer is formally diagnosed, it’s in a very advanced stage. In such a case, the only treatment available in Tanzania is complete removal of the breast — an option many women decline.

In the end, thousands of women who could be treated successfully if they lived elsewhere in the world end up dying. “This is a tragedy that shouldn’t happen today. We have the skill and technology to save many of these women’s lives,” says Brett Parkinson, MD, a radiologist who went to Tanzania along with Dianne Kane, the nursing director for oncology services at Intermountain Medical Center.

Brett and Diane are officers with the East African Breast Care Project, an organization devoted to helping Tanzanian women get access to screening mammography and breast ultrasound equipment, and ultimately establishing a comprehensive breast care clinic in the nation’s largest city, Dar es Salaam.
In June 2008, seven professionals from Tanzania visited Intermountain Medical Center for a week of training on the equipment. “It was a fantastic experience — for them and for us,” says Diane. “They’re so hungry for the tools necessary to help their countrywomen.”

During the 10-day trip to Tanzania, Brett and Diane — along with Shannon McCarrel, a representative of Hologic, Inc., which donated the mammography machines — met with their former students as well as medical teams from across the country. Brett taught radiologists how to read mammograms, Shannon will help technologists learn to operate the machines, and Diane helped administrative staff set up practices to direct patient flow and follow-up care.

“Our goal is to help doctors find the disease at a less-advanced stage, so they can treat it with less-aggressive measures,” says Brett. Once a good screening system is in place, the East African Breast Care Project will teach physicians about breast surgery and other forms of cancer treatment.

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