More than forty years ago, an American medical doctor who was a scuba diver, wrote an article in a Medical Journal about St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In his article, he made mention of seagulls flying over the crystal blue waters. ENT specialist, Dr. Sam Massey had just started scuba diving when he read the article which enticed him to visit this magical place.
In those days, Co-Owner of Young Island Resort, Dr. Frederick Ballantyne was Medical Director at the Kingstown General Hospital (now known as the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital). Dr. Ballantyne was always eager to find specialty doctors to come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to assist in areas where there was a need. A missionary by the name of Dr. Orville Browne was informed by Dr. Ballantyne that the country needed the services of an ENT specialist. At that time, there was no ENT specialist in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In his quest to assist Dr. Ballantyne, Dr. Browne contacted Dr. Massey who, together with Optometrist Dr. Bob Fisch whom he had met in the US Air Force, decided to start a Medical volunteer mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Mobile Medical Mission
The first Mobile Medical Mission was in 1980 when Dr. Massey provided volunteer ENT services with Dr. Fisch providing Optometrist services. Opthalmologist Dr. Eric Purdy was later brought on board together with other general volunteers who ran clinics organized and coordinated ahead of time and daily during the visits, by members of the Lions Club of St. Vincent. Today, Ophthalmologists Dr. Kathy McCabe and Dr. John Dagianis have become integral parts of the team with Optometrist Dr. Joe Chambers and other Optometrists joining them. Opthalmologist Dr. Warren Sobol also visits at a different time of year to provide volunteer services.
The main mission became that of United States-based doctors and other volunteers testing eyes, fitting eye glasses and conducting eye surgery on the less fortunate persons from communities throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines who would not otherwise have the means to pay for a doctor.
Expanding in the Caribbean
The Mobile Medical Mission has served in twenty different countries including Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Dominica and our course St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Over the years they have led approximately sixty missions to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the past many times visiting up to three times per year.
Thousands of used eye glasses sourced by Lions Clubs in the United States are shipped to SVG to the Lions Club of St. Vincent who arrange to have them stored for use during the annual missions. The Mission pays to transport the glasses to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Lions Club of St. Vincent partners every year on this initiative.
Family joins the cause
Over the years, Dr. Massey’s wife, Dr. Purdy’s wife and children and Dr. Mc Cabe’s husband and children have all supported the team by joining them to provide support services at the clinics. Dr. Massey who now considers himself to be the Mission’s “Cheerleader” had three generations of Masseys on the team. Apart from himself, his son Dr. Chip Massey, a Neuroradiologist, and his grandson Sam Massey who is now in Pre-Med were all part of the team of volunteers.
Home away from home
The owners of Young Island Resort recognize the value of this medical mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As a result, over the past forty years, Young Island has consistently supported the Mobile Medical Mission, offering concessionary room rates to all their team members. Longtime members of the team look forward to connecting with the Resort’s longstanding staff every year. The staff know these repeat guests by name and Mobile Medical Mission’s team members consider Young Island to be their “home away from home.”
At the end of each work day, as they board the Resort’s ferry to return to the island, the mission’s team members know that they will be met with warm and welcoming smiles in an environment where they are safe, comfortable and pampered. One of the highlights at the end of the day is undoubtedly enjoying the gastronomic delights which always define the Young Island experience.