Dinner with Dr. Parker

October 4, 2019 David Levin

I was very lucky to meet some amazing people on the ship, and was fortunate enough to have dinner with one of the most intelligent, genuine, inquisitive and good-natured guys I’d ever met. Dr. Gary Parker has been a surgeon on Mercy Ships for 29 years. He came to the ship with a plan to stay 3 months, and has been there nearly 30 years. Here’s a 1 minute clip on Dr. Parker.

What I quickly realized at the outset of our conversation was that Dr. Parker is trying to solve a much bigger problem than the medical cases he sees daily. He’s trying to change the course of humanity in the world’s poorest countries. After nearly 30 years, he boils the key question down to the following:

“Are people willing to change the way they view the world?”

To provide some context, in this part of the world, many people don’t subscribe to cause and effect. They don’t seek to understand why something happens, and then act accordingly to change it or advance. Therefore it’s not just the political issues, economic issues, health issues and more that cause extreme poverty—it’s the unwillingness of people to change the way they view the world and act differently.

How he ties his surgical work back to this question is as follows: He operates on people’s faces who’ve had massive tumors and other horrific issues. Most of the people he operates on have lost hope and many have been shunned by their villages. When he restores their faces, he watches new life come back into them and a renewed excitement to return home. His hope is that this new life will cause them to keep advancing when they return home, and change their course and those around them. As one example, when I was on the ship, he operated on a man that hadn’t been able to open his jaw in 30 years. This person will soon return home with a working jaw.

©2016 Mercy Ships – Photo Credit Katie Keegan – OR Nurse Theresa Cheung (USA) assists Dr. Gary PARKER (USA) with a surgery.

I love his question because it applies to all of us. In order for humanity to move forward, we must be willing to change. If we don’t, we stay stagnant. In life. In business. In everything.

Most of us are lucky to have a long average lifespan. Yet, it’s still really short. Let’s be willing to change, and evolve, and keep pushing forward to make the most out of whatever is most meaningful to us.

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