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A pharmacist’s mission

Wendy Rose Gould | Jun 03, 2019

In addition to medical assistance, Wayne Sullivan and fellow volunteers dispensed humor, including clown noses.

In a span of just five days, retired pharmacist and Kentucky resident Wayne Sullivan and fellow volunteers helped set up and run five health clinics in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, in May 2018. Together, they filled nearly 3,000 prescriptions, provided dental care, delivered shoes and gifted glasses to more than 1,000 people in need. The group worked in churches, community centers and thatched-roof huts in the jungle.

Wayne Sullivan “I had previously been on mission trips with the Methodist Church’s Volunteers in Mission program back in the 1970s and early ’90s, but only as a laborer,” says Sullivan, who’s an active member of both the Lexington and Gardenside Kiwanis clubs in Kentucky. “This trip to Ecuador was much different, as I was actually working my profession and sharing my knowledge.”

The trip was hosted by Shoulder to Shoulder Global, to which the Kiwanis Club of Lexington has donated up to US$5,000 annually. Every year, STSG brings three to four medical teams (referred to as brigades) of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists to serve communities in Ecuador. Sullivan, who retired in 2003, says he’d often thought about participating and finally joined one of the brigades after being invited to attend.

“I have never had a more rewarding experience,” he says. “I was so impressed with our patients, who were so patient and grateful. Many were there at eight in the morning, and some did not get away until early afternoon, many waiting for other family members and some visiting with others.” 

In addition to five days of intense medical clinics, the brigade also brought donations of school supplies, gently used clothing and sanitary items. Sullivan personally brought pencils and sharpeners, hand sanitizer and clown noses to hand out during his clinics.

“Everyone had a smile on their face,” he says. “With my limited vocabulary, I was able to greet people, and they smiled. I learned the phrase asking if the kids wanted pencils and they smiled. As I was reminded years ago, ‘Everyone smiles in the same language.’” 

Sullivan will return to Santo Domingo, Ecuador, this August for a second trip with STSG. He says he’s looking forward to volunteering in the clinics, handing out clown noses and, of course, all the smiles. 

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