Carl Lum, M.D.

Photo courtesy Carl Lum

Dr. Carl Lum visited Sagaing, Myanmar (Burma), last October as a part of his volunteer work with Aloha Medical Mission, a local nonprofit that provides free health services to underserved people in the Pacific, Asia and Hawaii. The trip was a surgical mission, which he has done many times in the past 20 years during his involvement with the organization. Aloha Medical Mission recently started a prothesis program for patients, and Lum brought a dozen hand protheses with him. He wasn’t really expecting to see many amputees in this small farming community. But he was shocked at what he found: More than 100 amputees, many of whom had been injured working in factories or sugar mills, showed up hoping to receive a prosthesis. Because he only was able to serve a few of them, Lum will return to Myanmar later this month with more prostheses and expects to treat about 100 patients.

Born and raised in the Islands, Lum is a retired general surgeon. He has been going on an average of two to five trips each year with AMM to various locations. The organization was founded in 1983, and over the years, volunteer physicians and nurses have traveled to the Philippines, Micronesia, Laos, Nepal and Bangladesh to perform surgeries and provide other medical services. The organization reaches out to patients who may not have access to care.

“There are patients waiting to have their surgeries done, otherwise they just can’t afford it,” Lum says.

AMM started the hand prothesis program, with the motto “Give Help Give A Hand,” last year to provide free prostheses to amputees. As the team leader for Myanmar, Lum coordinates patient visits with local doctors, examines patients, fits patients with a prosthesis and teaches them how to use it. The program also entails a foundation for local, long-term care. “We also plan to train the local doctors, so that after we’ve gone … they can fit a patient with a prosthesis,” Lum says.

A prosthetic hand can improve the quality of life for amputees, allowing them to do many activities they couldn’t do before. “With the prosthesis, they can write, they can ride a bicycle, they can work in the garden, they can hold a cup and use a fork,” Lum says.

Lum says that the main reason he got involved in medicine is to help people, which he continues to do on every mission trip.

“I really enjoy going on these missions,” he says. “The people we help … would not be helped otherwise.”

“One should have a purpose-driven life,” Lum says, “and mine is inspired by the words of theologian John Wesley, who said, ‘Do all the good you can … to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.'”

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