As a doctor in family practice in Tupelo, Mississippi, Dr. Marcus Ueltschey ’95 participated in several short-term medical missions coordinated through Peru Mission, an organization working to plant churches and build Christian communities in Trujillo, Peru.
Some eight years ago, Peru Mission established a clinic in the Wichanzao neighborhood of Trujillo. In 2010, the organization asked for Dr. Ueltschey’s assistance in locating an American doctor who could spend at least one year in Peru providing medical care for residents of the neighborhood and managing the clinic as it grew. Dr. Ueltschey searched for the ideal doctor with no luck. Then, after much prayer and discussion with his wife, Whitney, he decided to accept the position himself.
In October of 2010, following three months of intensive Spanish language school, Dr. and Mrs. Ueltschey and their four children relocated to Trujillo, where Dr. Ueltschey serves as head doctor and administrator of the Consultorio Medico Pastoral.
“We are a full service, outpatient clinic,” Dr. Ueltschey explains. “We see about 30 patients per day, ranging in age from newborn babies to folks over 100 years old, all with a range of illnesses and health concerns.”
The Consultorio Medico Pastoral staff includes 13 full-time medical personnel and technicians and a number of rotating volunteers, including doctors, nurses, and dentists who visit from the United States and other countries on short-term and long-term missions. The clinic includes a dental office and a laboratory where basic lab work is performed onsite.
In addition to treating patients and supervising the clinic staff, Dr. Ueltschey is responsible for assessing the clinic’s ongoing operation, determining priority needs, then finding a way to generate the funds needed to meet them. In May 2011, Dr. Ueltschey was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the clinic’s first sonogram machine, and was pondering the possibility of acquiring an X-ray machine – an easy purchase in a United States hospital, but a significant investment for the Wichanzao clinic.
“The biggest frustration about working here is seeing patients with illnesses and conditions that are easily diagnosed and could be easily treated, then not being able to treat them due to lack of funding,” Dr. Ueltschey says. “Our greatest challenge is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of resources for the proper medicine or equipment.”
The clinic charges its patients modest fees for healthcare services. A general clinic visit would run a patient about $2.50 in U.S. dollars. An EKG comes in at $5.00, a dental exam about $1.00. Those fees allow the clinic to pay salaries and other day-to-day expenses, but most capital improvements – including that new sonogram machine – are covered through donations from the United States.
“The goal is to have the clinic become an entirely self-supporting ministry,” Dr. Ueltschey says. “It’s also our hope that when my time here ends in 2012, Christian, Peruvian physicians will continue to move the clinic forward. It would be great if another American doctor could come, but even better if that’s not necessary.”
Consultorio Medico Pastoral has earned the confidence of the people of Wichanzao and has become a vital part of the community. In the first three months of 2010, the clinic logged approximately 1,000 patient visits; in the first three months of 2011, that number jumped to 1,400.
In addition to seeing patients at the clinic, Dr. Ueltschey and his staff conduct regular medical campaigns in outlying areas. Staff members travel to impoverished neighborhoods and squatter’s camps on the outskirts of Trujillo, set up makeshift treatment areas, then go door to door to announce they are seeing patients. A recent campaign in the community of Clementina attracted patients of all ages, including many families with small children.
"The people are a little nervous at first," Dr. Uelschey says. "It's a new experience for them and it can be frightening. Sometimes there’s a little skepticism that we’re here to try to get something from them rather than just to share and to give. But once the church is established in the area, it becomes a lot easier because they realize there is no other motive. We are simply brothers in Christ who want to help them with their health conditions.
“That’s the ultimate reason we’re here – to show them the love of Christ,” Dr. Ueltschey continues. “There are so many challenges in a medical mission like this one, but the biggest reward is seeing the integration of taking care of people’s physical heath and taking care of their spiritual health. Medicine is limited. People will get sick again. But the spiritual change is eternal.”