Through the capacity building program, Mercy Ships works together with government officials and local medical professionals to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in Africa – and has been doing so for more than 30 years. In that time, Mercy Ships has been introduced to countless talented medical professionals who bring hope and healing to their communities – and the world. Today’s Hero of Healthcare is Dr. Patricia Eyoup Sen, an ophthalmic surgeon who used her training to breathe new life into an eye clinic in rural Cameroon.
When Dr. Patricia Eyoup Sen first came onboard the Africa Mercy, she was a student in our ophthalmic mentoring program participating in surgery for the first time ever. Now — just four years after her first O.R. experience — Dr. Patricia is a leading ophthalmic surgeon who helps thousands of patients annually in her home country of Cameroon.
The journey between then and now is a testament to Dr. Patricia’s resilience and courage. When we first met this young surgeon in 2017, she had spent years studying ophthalmology in hopes of turning her surgical dreams into a reality. She joined a three-month long mentoring program led by Dr. Glenn Strauss, then the leading volunteer ophthalmic surgeon onboard.
“Patricia was one of those young surgeons who had great talent but needed someone to invest in her. The Mercy Ships eye team provided her a supportive, encouraging environment to find and develop her gifting as a surgeon,” said Dr. Glenn.
During her three months onboard, Dr. Patricia participated in more than 300 surgeries. She was the lead surgeon in over half of these, which gave her vital experience to carry forward long after the ship sailed away.
“My experience with the Mercy Ships training program was wonderful,” says Dr. Patricia. “I learned a lot, especially regarding cataract surgery.”
Applying Her Training in an Under-Resourced Hospital
After her training onboard the Africa Mercy, Dr. Patricia decided to bring her new skills to an eye clinic in a remote regional hospital in northern Cameroon. The hospital had been lacking ophthalmic specialists for almost 20 years. With the help of Mercy Ships MCB staff, Dr. Patricia was able to help train nurses in the area, several of whom returned to work in her clinic.
Once the clinic was up and running thanks to equipment donations, Dr. Patricia led the way forward in providing care for patients with ophthalmic needs. She spent more than two years performing cataract surgeries during a free surgery campaign, as well as caring for patients with glaucoma and inflammation. Mercy Ships has come alongside her to support the clinic with operating room equipment and microscopes.
Dr. Patricia Returns to the Africa Mercy
Less than a year after Dr. Patricia’s mentoring, she decided to return to the Africa Mercy. This time, she came onboard as a volunteer surgeon. During her two weeks onboard during the field service in Guinea, she performed cataract surgeries for 85 patients — which, at the heart of it, is the reason she got into this field in the first place.
“I came back to serve with Mercy Ships in Guinea because I wanted to improve my practice, and I wanted to serve people who need help for blindness,” she said. “I feel blessed to be able to give sight to people. It’s a great opportunity to help people, and I’m very thankful.”
Treating Thousands of Patients Each Year
Dr. Patricia has since returned to the port city of Douala, Cameroon, where she works with patients suffering from medical eye pathologies and provides referrals for the surgeries they desperately need. She offers life-changing care to more than 2,000 patients each year.
“Thanks to the surgical technique I learned from Dr. Glenn, I was able to improve the quality of life for the people I operated on,” says Dr. Patricia. “The lasting impact of Mercy Ships goes far beyond me. All the doctors and nurses that have been trained can go on to help the whole country.”