Fundraiser ben­e­fits Earth Mis­sion Asia

The lo­cal non­profit pro­vides med­i­cal train­ing in Myan­mar.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Janelle Jessen Staff Writer ■

Earth Mis­sion Asia, a Siloam Springs based non­profit, is mak­ing a big im­pact on Myan­mar, also known as Burma, through med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion.

The non­profit is fo­cused on train­ing physi­cians’ as­sis­tants from the Karen (pro­nounced Kuh-ren) peo­ple group, who then re­turn to their home com­mu­ni­ties’ re­mote jun­gle ar­eas to pro­vide much needed health care. A fundraiser for the or­ga­ni­za­tion was held on Oct. 16 at Sim­mons Great Hall.

Earth Mis­sion Asia is also de­vel­op­ing an en­gi­neer­ing train­ing pro­gram in Burma and the larger Earth Mis­sion or­ga­ni­za­tion, es­tab­lished in 1982 by L.D. and Sue Ryan, is do­ing projects in other parts of the world. How­ever, the fundraiser fo­cused on the work be­ing done in med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in Myan­mar.

Dr. Mitch Ryan, Earth Mis­sion Asia pro­gram di­rec­tor, was the key­note speaker at the event and

his wife, Caryl Ryan, ad­min­is­tra­tion and fi­nance di­rec­tor, was a spe­cial guest. Dan Ryan, owner of Siloam Springs-based Ryan En­gi­neer­ing, is the CEO of Earth Mis­sion Asia.

Dr. Ryan said the Karen peo­ple live in a re­mote area im­pacted by a civil war that has been go­ing on for more than 60 years. A peace agree­ment was reached in 2016, en­abling Earth Mis­sion Asia to es­tab­lish a clinic and med­i­cal train­ing pro­gram.

The stu­dents who are re­cruited to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gram gen­er­ally have about the equiv­a­lent of a 10th-grade ed­u­ca­tion, Dr. Ryan said. Stu­dents spend their first year of the train­ing pro­gram in Chaing Mai, Thai­land, con­cen­trat­ing on the fun­da­men­tals of ed­u­ca­tion, such as math, sci­ence and English.

“The rea­son we use English is that English gives you ac­cess to a lot of in­for­ma­tion,” he said. “On­line, there are all kinds of English re­sources for all kinds of med­i­cal lev­els. It also gives them the abil­ity to get con­sul­ta­tion with English-based speak­ers, even a lot of other coun­tries use English in their ba­sic train­ing pro­grams.”

The sec­ond and third year of the train­ing pro­gram is spent in Kyaukkyi, Myan­mar, where stu­dents study in a clin­i­cal set­ting. Dur­ing the fourth and fifth year of the pro­gram, they re­turn to the re­mote clinic to do an in­tern­ship fo­cused on jun­gle medicine.

Prac­tic­ing medicine in the jun­gle of­fers unique chal­lenges, Dr. Ryan said. Stu­dents need to be able to think crit­i­cally to solve prob­lems with lim­ited equip­ment and re­sources. They also fre­quently work on their own, and have to com­bine the di­ag­nos­tic skills of a physi­cian with nurs­ing and lab tech skills.

“Where we (in the U.S.) would spe­cial­ize into dif­fer­ent ar­eas, these guys have to know all of it,” Dr. Ryan said.

Stu­dents are trained to di­ag­nose and treat com­mon prob­lems and con­nect pa­tients with more com­plex cases to out­side re­sources. Com­mon causes of death for children in the area are eas­ily treated con­di­tions such as pneumonia and di­ar­rhea, Dr. Ryan said. Other in­fec­tious dis­eases, such as ty­phus, ty­phoid, lep­tospiro­sis, dengue and malaria are very dif­fer­ent from the com­mon dis­eases doc­tors in the U.S. treat.

Cur­rently, the pro­gram has about 10 stu­dents en­rolled in each year of the five year pro­gram, Dr. Ryan said. The en­tire pro­gram is de­signed to en­cour­age stu­dents to go back to their home com­mu­ni­ties and prac­tice medicine.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, all over the world, there have been prob­lems get­ting health care into re­mote ar­eas, even here in the U.S. that’s been true. … Kind of the ac­cepted univer­sal truth is that if you get peo­ple from those ar­eas they are more likely to go back, and if you train peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas … they are more likely to stay there,” Dr. Ryan said.

One of the fu­ture goals of the pro­gram is to de­velop a cur­ricu­lum spe­cific to the area of need and pack­age it to of­fer it to other non­prof­its serv­ing other peo­ple groups. There are more than 100 dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups in Myan­mar alone that could use a sim­i­lar pro­gram, he said.

Dr. Ryan said that he doesn’t want to give the im­pres­sion that aid is go­ing one way. While Earth Mis­sion Asia of­fers the Karen peo­ple tech­ni­cal skills in medicine and en­gi­neer­ing, they of­fer in­sight on how to live in a com­mu­nity, bridge ar­eas of con­flict and live coura­geously, he said.

“I see my job as hav­ing one foot in both cul­tures, one here and one there,” he said. “I bring medicine and tech­nol­ogy that way but I want to bring some of these more ways of liv­ing that we need this way, it’s a two-way street. We both can use the good that each other has.”

More in­for­ma­tion about Earth Mis­sion and its projects around the world is avail­able at­mis­ More in­for­ma­tion about Earth Mis­sion Asia is avail­able at­­mis­sion­a­sia/.

Photo sub­mit­ted

Dr. Sha Kler Law, med­i­cal di­rec­tor and one of four physi­cians on staff for the train­ing pro­gram, taught stu­dents while see­ing a pa­tient.

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