FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – For the last five years Community Regional Medical Center’s Dr. Jeffery Thomas has volunteered his time, thousands of miles away, at a birthing center in Armenia. As an OBGYN and the hospital’s chief medical and quality officer, Dr. Thomas shares how it’s not only benefited those in need of proper care, but also his own family.
“In an environment here in the United States, obviously there’s regulations and rules and a lot of times when you’re in an academic or observational environment–there’s layers of residents, fellows or other students that are kind of in front of the lay person in the room, but there’s really nobody like that in Armenia–it’s just them often and me,” said Dr. Thomas.
Traveling with his wife, Heidi to the Akhouryan Mother & Child Birthing Center in Armenia–Dr. Thomas, performs surgeries and delivers babies while Heidi assists in helping new moms in recovery. And this year, for the first time, their daughters, Mattie and Kate were able to join and get involved in the mission too.
“We’ve always been a really close knit family, but after this trip and even so far, I feel much closer to my parents, because I’m learning so much from them. And being all together is an amazing experience,” said Kate Thomas.
An experience that while some parents only hint at a hope their children might want to be a doctor “when they grow up,” for the daughters of Dr. Thomas, it’s something Kate and Mattie look forward to — as they both hope to pursue medical careers.
“Personally, my father has been one of my greatest role models and ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor because of him and I’ve always looked up to him. I’m still feeling like I’m in a dream or something because I never in a million years thought that I could learn first-hand from the teacher that is my greatest role model and that’s something that I’m going to take back with me and keep for the rest of my life for sure,” said Mattie Thomas.
Traveling more than 19 hours, over 7,000 miles, with 14 suitcases in tow — making memories.
“I think that my daughters impressions, just like my wife’s impressions, up until our first mission, my wife–up until our first mission, my wife had not really seen me operate or do deliveries. It wasn’t until she was actually in the room seeing what I did when I wasn’t at home that she had an appreciation and understanding of what happens. I think for my daughters, it’s magnificent to be able to see anybody do some of the medical things that were done, but if it’s your dad, I think it had a special place in their hearts,” Dr. Thomas said.
Year after year, the Thomas daughters listened to the stories of their parents’ trip overseas and this time around were able to see and even participate in helping bring new babies into their own families–hoping these children will be asked one day, what they want to be when they grow up.
“I think if they take away this component of community service–of worldwide service, I will be blessed and proud of them–even if they don’t pursue a career in medicine,” Dr. Thomas said.