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Fairbanks medical team preps for Indonesian surgery mission

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Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 11:48 pm | Updated: 1:42 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Ten Fairbanksans and three former Fairbanksans are wrapping up preparations to treat children on a remote Indonesian island next week.

Plastic surgeon Chris Jensen and pediatrician Mishelle Nace, along with five registered nurses, three certified registered nurse anesthetists, a certified surgical technician, a volunteer orderly and an engineer are making the trip to assist up to 30 children who need cleft lip surgery.

The volunteer medical professionals are sponsored by the International Friends of Compassion, a charity with deep roots in Fairbanks that has established clinics, an orphanage, a school, homes for patients and other facilities on the island of Halmahera.

The clinic staff members treat 8,000 patients per year and provide free medical, dental and eye care to anyone who needs it, which is a lifesaver in that impoverished region.

Dozens of Fairbanksans have undertaken volunteer mission trips to Indonesia over the past 12 years, backed by the IFC, an organization Carl Cady founded to help people in need.

Fairbanks engineer Dan Holmgren, a longtime volunteer, said the members of the medical team are paying their way and have been accepting contributions for expenses and the medical supplies they are taking.

The journey, by way of Seattle, Tokyo and Singapore, requires five flights.

For luggage, each person has two 44-pound boxes containing medical equipment, keeping most of their personal items for the 10-day trip in carry-on bags.

The preparations began about nine months ago and are nearly complete, he said.

“The community of Fairbanks has been tremendously supportive,” said Holmgren, who has made numerous trips to Halmahera since 2001.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital nurse Liz Wood, a key organizer of the trip, said IFC is in an area where there was great suffering during the war of 1999-2000.

“While IFC is a Christian based organization, my favorite part of working with them is that they treat every person no matter their religious belief, which to me is pretty pivotal in a country like Indonesia that is half Muslim,” Wood said.

The team members have raised funds for a portable anesthesia machine and an electrocautery machine that can be used on future trips.

As they prepare to take off this weekend, they want to let people know how grateful they are for the assistance from Fairbanks.

“To take a medical team on the road is extremely complex, not just expensive,” Wood said. “The support to each individual team member has come from all walks, from the yoga club to Zumba, to bake sales and flat out donations from a few cents to hundreds of dollars. We could not have done it without this community support.”

If you want to help the cause, tax deductible contributions to help IFC can be made at its website,, or by writing to: IFC, Box 81823, Fairbanks, AK 99708.

Please note the donation is for the Cleft Lip Surgery Trip.


ARTISTS HONORED: The 2012 Interior Alaska Mayors’ Awards for the Arts are going to: E. Maya Salganek, Tom and Nelda Nixon, Phyllis Pendergrast and Chuck Lemke, Peggy Ferguson, Bill Stevens and Ree Nancarrow.

The awards will be presented at 6 p.m. Friday in the Pioneer Park civic center.

A punch and cupcake reception will follow in the Bear Gallery. The public is invited and admission is free.

The awards recognize those who have done outstanding work on behalf of the arts as leaders, volunteers, artists and administrators.

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