2017 MedicalMissions.org Physicians of the Year
Get to Know the 2017 MedicalMissions.org Physician of the Year
Physician Honoree: Dr. Gloria Halverson, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Dr. Gloria Halverson wants to introduce you to a woman who epitomizes her passion for international mission work. Meet Susannah, one of the most recent graduates of House of Hope in Nicaragua. Susannah was a “cardboard box girl” in Honduras, which means since she was young, she has had to endure prostitution in actual cardboard boxes.
Throughout the past 15 years, Dr. Halverson has been leading large groups of medical professionals around the world, most recently with the Global Health Outreach arm of Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA). In 2011 Dr. Halverson discovered House of Hope while volunteering with CMDA and immediately knew this was where she wanted to focus her mission work.
Twice a year she leads teams to Managua, Nicaragua to provide medical and gynecologic care to women who have been victims of sex trafficking and have minimal access to healthcare and education. Though cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths of women in that region, 90 percent of the women in Nicaragua have never had a pap smear. Those who come to House of Hope cannot afford good medical care and are often looked down upon by care providers.
Susannah was one of those women. “Susannah was found by House of Hope outreach members in Honduras, where she suffered from hepatitis. A local hospital sent her back to the streets after telling her medicine could help no longer,” Dr. Halverson recalls. “Instead, Susannah felt inspired by the visitors from House of Hope (who were themselves former victims of human trafficking) and asked to return with them to Nicaragua.”
At House of Hope in Nicaragua, Susannah received education and learned valuable life skills to support herself. In June, she graduated from the program and returned to Honduras to pass on her expertise and pull others out of prostitution and abuse. House of Hope is currently raising funds to create a new outreach location there with Susannah leading it. Interestingly, Susannah’s jaundice has all cleared.
Dr. Halverson’s team brings to Nicaragua the tools and equipment to perform and read pap smears as well as perform colposcopies. By treating the women with dignity and providing basic women's healthcare, she has saved countless lives. “These are women who have been told that they are worthless. We try to love them and let them realize they are of eternal value.” The team also provides medical, pediatric, and eyeglasses as well as ultrasound, lab testing and medications.
“Through her long-term commitment to the outreach ministry of House of Hope, Dr. Halverson has earned the respect and friendship of the people who live and work there,” says colleague Amy Givler of CMDA. “She also sees the value in teaching the other members of the team who travel with her to Nicaragua. She reviews with them the medical knowledge they will need to care for the women at House of Hope, and she also seeks to model the caring attitude that will make an emotional impact on these hurting women. She has mentored many of the women physicians who have accompanied her.”
Dr. Halverson, although feeling there are many others more deserving of this award, was thrilled to receive this because of House of Hope benefiting with a financial reward. “Medicalmissions.org can be assured that they are making a strategic difference in the lives of many women through this grant,” she says.
Dr. Halverson serves on the board of directors of House of Hope international and has been a vocal advocate for House of Hope, as well as speaking often to physicians, university students and other groups to raise awareness of Human Trafficking. She was a founding member of CMDA’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2013, and, with three others, developed an 11-module online curriculum on human trafficking for health professionals. She has also coauthored a textbook chapter on human trafficking to teach medical students.
Gloria Halverson went on her first medical mission trip, a ten-week trip to Abu Dhabi, while still a medical student in 1972, after receiving a Medical Assistance Programs (MAP International) grant. Since then she has served in Rwanda, Peru, Guatemala, Macedonia, Greece, Kenya, Ecuador, Thailand and China.
She has also chaired the continuing medical and dental education commission of CMDA, which provides medical education to missionary doctors serving in low resourced countries. She is currently the president elect of CMDA and serves on their Board of Trustees. She has been active at Elmbrook Church speaking to many women’s groups and serving as female liaison to the elders board.
Click here to see the recipient of this year's MedicalMissions.org Advanced Practitioner of the Year.