Members and friends of the Cuban Association of the Knights of Malta provided medical care to over 1,000 poor patients in their recent mission to the Dominican Republic.
Thirty-three participants, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, worked in a poor area outside of the northern Dominican city of Santiago de los Caballeros. The team doctors included specialists in cardiology, pediatric medicine, physical therapy, urology, gastroenterology, gynecology, oncology, dentistry and internal medicine.
The four-day mission during the first weekend of March treated 1,044 patients across 1,500 patient visits. Mission pharmacy staff distributed free medicines and other medical supplies valued at over $100,000.
The endeavor was based at Hospital Manuel J. Centurion at the ILAC Center of the Licey al Medio medical facility. ILAC is a Catholic group whose free-standing clinic features three operating rooms and five exam rooms. The group aims to promote the well-being and spiritual growth of all its participants in its educational and health care work.
Mission participants received local assistance from clinic staff and the organization Cooperadores de Salud.
The volunteers themselves found inspiration among the people.
“As always, we receive much more from the Dominicans than what we bring,” said mission co-leader Dr. Jorge Echenique, M.D.
He and co-leader Dr. José Joaquín Centurión, M.D., both Knights of Malta and members of the Cuban Association, reside and practice in south Florida. Mission participants flew to the Dominican Republic from Miami, Florida with the help of American Airlines.
The Cuban Association of the Order of Malta was established in 1952. It later reorganized in Miami, Florida in 1990 to establish activities for the poor and the elderly in cooperation with the local Church. It presently has 113 knights, dames and chaplains, including three who live in Cuba.
Its volunteer doctors also serve the San Juan Bosco parish clinic Our Lady of Philermo in Miami.
The organization has worked closely with the Catholic Church in Cuba since 1996 and presently funds 55 elderly support centers associated with a similar number of Catholic parishes throughout the island. It also funds living facilities for retired priests, hospitals, and other institutions such as one which serves children with Down's syndrome.
Established in the year 1048, the Order of Malta is the oldest Christian charity organization in the Catholic Church.
The website of the order's Cuban Association is http://ordendemaltacuba.com