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Air Guard physician serves on Mercy ship

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kevin Schulze
  • 181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
One of the primary missions of the Air National Guard is to serve the community, state, and nation; and for Lt. Col. Glenn Mandeville, a physician assigned to the 181st Intelligence Wing Medical Group, this commitment goes beyond his Air Force service and into his everyday life as a general surgeon.

Mandeville recently returned from a two week volunteer mission with the Africa Mercy hospital ship that has just finished its year long berth in Conakry Guinea. Mandeville operated as a general surgeon throughout the length of his service.

“What we do in the operating room is the same as what we would do here with the same kind of problems,” said Mandeville. “Their [medical] problems are more advanced than what we would see here and can be debilitating… We can really change their lives.”

Since 1978, Mercy Ships, an international charity, has been offering first world care to poverty stricken nations. Mandeville took up their call for volunteers and joined the crew as a medical professional for two weeks.

“We had about 400 people on the boat working, and then about 50-70 patients at a time,” said Mandeville.

As a surgeon, Mandeville provided life saving medical procedures while handling logistical decisions to optimize the Africa Mercy’s capabilities.

“Typically, in general surgery we try to do cases that we can do and get the patients out within 24 hours… if we do complex procedures where somebody needs to stay in the hospital or on the boat for 10 days then we don’t have those beds for 10 days and we have to stop doing surgeries.”

With crew members from over 40 countries, the Africa Mercy operates in a multicultural environment of professionals.

Mandeville said “We might have had somebody giving anesthesia from England, and I might be from the US, but I’d have a nurse from South Korea and another nurse from Australia and we might have somebody else helping from Africa, as well as local physicians to work with the volunteers to improve skills… We’re all trying to communicate with different accents and phrases. It’s very interesting, but it works.”

With specialty medical expertise in various fields, the Africa Mercy was able to change lives one patient at a time.

“Congenital cataracts were pretty common over there,” said Mandeville. “These patients were blind, they couldn’t do anything. You fix their cataracts, they can see. Can you imagine? You’ve been blind for 20 years and the next day you can see?”

The medical relief of the Africa Mercy could not have come sooner for the people of Guinea.

Since the Ebola outbreak, Guinea has only a handful of doctors for the entirety of the country… The Mercy offers the medical relief needed by the local population, said Mandeville.

Africa Mercy looks to continue its medical relief in Dakar, Senegal from August 2019 until June 2020 and they will be looking for volunteers, like Mandeville, to step into mission essential positions.

“They have jobs on the ship that anybody can do,” said Mandeville. “Just about any profession we have here in the United States they would need on the boat too, or they would find you a spot. Anybody can volunteer and they will find a place for you.”

Mandeville’s commitment to service highlights the qualities instilled in Airmen throughout their training and careers in the Air Force. The dedication to helping others is one of the primary values held by the 181st Intelligence Wing.