In mid-February, Dr. Robert Johnson, Vidalia ENT Associates Physician, along with his wife Dr. Stacie Wong, Meadows Regional Medical Center Anesthesiologist, headed to Antigua, Guatemala, to serve as missionaries with Faith in Practice.
Faith In Practice is a nonprofit, Houston based organization that provides medical and dental services to the poor in Guatemala. Hundreds of doctors, nurses and healthcare providers from all over the United States volunteer, paying their own way for flights, hotels, and other expenses.
According to Johnson, Faith In Practice sends around 40 teams per year, working together throughout Guatemala, operating at two different hospitals. “This year our team consisted of healthcare providers from Vermont, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, and Georgia, many of which were from Savannah,” he said. “While there, we provided medical and dental services to the poorest areas in Guatemala. The per capita income there is only $2 a day, and there is no access to healthcare or government assistance. I performed both neck and sinus surgeries, tonsillectomies, and similar procedures like those we perform in Vidalia.”
When asked about his favorite part of the mission trip, he answered, “As a Christian, it’s both an international mission trip and a retreat. The experience is very worshipful. It renews both my faith and my Christian commitment, which in turn, makes me more committed to my patients.”
Johnson has participated in several medical mission trips to Guatemala through Faith In Practice, but says it’s the first time his wife has joined him. “This was Stacie’s first trip, but she loved it and wants to go back,” he said. “I’ve been on seven prior mission trips, and my daughter went last year to assist as a translator.”
When asked if any part of the mission trip was a challenge for him, Johnson responded, “One challenge is the language. We use Spanish translators, but the Mayan Indians don’t speak Spanish. Because of this we have to use two translators, and sometimes the details get lost in translation.”
Johnson has financially supported Faith In Practice since 2005. “Charity Navigator scores Faith In Practice at a 92% efficiency rate,” he said. “Which means 92 cents of every dollar goes to patient care. Most church based charities donate, and millions have been raised for operating rooms and care facilities within the two hospitals. They have been rated four stars for over ten years, and are growing every year.”
“The mission trip was a phenomenal experience,” Wong commented. “It was far more impactful to me than I anticipated. What stood out to me was just how much good we could do for those who don’t have healthcare like we do in the U.S.” She also added, “My overall goal is do more mission work in the future.”
Both Johnson and Wong graduated from Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and have been physicians for almost 30 years. Prior to becoming a physician, Johnson was an Army Ranger and Physician Assistant. He specializes in Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery. He is also board certified in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Throughout her career, Wong has specialized in Anesthesiology. She is also the Medical Director for Anesthesiology at South University, where she is involved with the Lifebox Foundation. The nonprofit organization, whose mission is to address unsafe surgery in underdeveloped countries, provides essential equipment (pulse oximeters) training, monitoring, and measurement to facilities and medical providers who need it most.
Both Johnson and Wong plan to return to Guatemala with Faith in Practice again next year.