August 2 2002

Mercy Outreach Surgical Team in Mexico

Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotarian and Dr. Doug Arbon, M.D., an anesthesiologist, have a mutually beneficial relationship. In 1985, Dr. Arbon, and a small group of doctors planted the seeds that marked the beginning of “Mercy Doctors in Mexico” in which the San Diego Rotary Club became involved with and turbo-charged to greater successes followed.


Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotarian Juan Aguila (left) introduced Doug Arbon, M.D., (center) and his father-in-law. Dr. Arbon is on the Mercy Outreach Surgical Team working in Mexico.

The group of doctors and support staff began in ‘85 by flying twice a year to Mexico where they handled 60 to 80 cases and now, it has grown to 275 cases. Doctors are carefully selected and only the tops in their area of expertise were selected.

It soon became “The Mercy Outreach Surgical Team (MOST)” a program of Scripps Mercy Hospital. The group is a volunteer organization of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals dedicated to providing free medical and surgical care to needy children and adults in Mexico and San Diego who have no other means of obtaining help. For 15 years, MOST has provided life-enhancing surgeries to more than 3,000 disadvantaged individuals suffering from deformities caused by birth defects or accidents such as burn scars, cleft lips and palates, hernias and crossed eyes.

The “Mercy Doctors in Mexico” do more cases in one day than many hospitals do in a month. Dr. Arbon showed the Rotarian’s an interesting film of the Tehuacán project that demonstrated their work. The project has affected the lives of many children and adults. The pre-process is tedious and lengthy, and requires a great deal of preparation and coordination. In addition to the medical staff, non-medical staff assists in scheduling, Before any surgery is done, the staff must arrange the scheduling; make extensive preparation and coordination such as flying in supplies; clearing with government authorities, and other agencies; as well as conditioning family members so they thoroughly understand the procedures.

Now, MOST organizes several weekend trips each year to Mexico, and working with local Mexican medical personnel are able to provide surgical care for up to 100 individuals in one weekend. In addition, MOST works with the hospital staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego to organize an annual Mercy Day. One weekend each September, Scripps Mercy Hospital closes its operating room and ambulatory surgery center to accommodate as many corrective surgeries as possible to less fortunate San Diegans and Mexican citizens.

In addition to bringing hope, comfort and a better life to the patients served by MOST, the group shares medical knowledge, techniques and expertise in rural areas of Mexico so that physicians practicing in those areas may learn new procedures and provide better care to the populations they serve.

The Sisters of Mercy established Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego’s longest operating and only Catholic hospital, in 1890. The hospital was founded with the intent of caring for the underserved in the community through various programs and services like MOST.

Delta Collins of the Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotarian Club submitted this story.

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