Gary Parker, DDS, received the AAOMS Humanitarian Award for Fellows and Members in recognition of his work with Mercy Ships, headquartered in Lindale.
“As I watched the flow of people boarding the Africa Mercy in search of a miracle, I had a better understanding of the satisfaction and joy that have bound Gary Parker and his family to this life of service,” said AAOMS President Miro Pavelka, DDS, MDS, when presenting the award. “Dr. Parker, thank you for reminding us of why we became oral and maxillofacial surgeons.”
Parker earned his dental degree from UCLA School of Dentistry and completed his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at UCLA Hospital and Medical Center. After his residency training, he spent five years as senior registrar, North Wales Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit, Glan Clywd Hospital in North Wales, United Kingdom.
In 1987, Parker joined Mercy Ships, an international charity founded in 1978, and became a ship surgeon on the Anastasis. Thus began his dedication of his life’s work to Mercy Ships’ humanitarian service. He serves as Chief Medical Officer on board the 16,500-ton Africa Mercy, where he lives with his wife and children. The Africa Mercy is the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, providing free surgical and transformational healthcare.
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access. Focused on Africa for the past 20 years, the Africa Mercy is docked in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo. During the ship’s 10-month stay in port, staff plans to provide more than 3,300 surgeries for adult and child patients onboard, to treat more than 20,000 at land-based dental and eye clinics renovated for the purpose, and to provide holistic healthcare education to over 240 Congolese healthcare professionals and 830 community leaders.
Healthcare education programs model and encourage compassion and promote transformational development in the health sector. Parker is involved with one-on-one mentoring opportunities with Congolese surgeons during the ship’s stay in port. Other professionals onboard will lead internationally recognized courses as well as structured observation in the Africa Mercy hospital.