Still Giving Back

May 4, 2017 • United States
Sarah Lantz at work in Zambia.
Dr. Sarah Lantz at work in Mukinge Hospital in Zambia.

A scholarship established in memory of Dr. Sarah Lantz helps a World Medical Mission volunteer experience the joys of overseas service.

Ciara Huntington counts herself among the many fortunate people who have been inspired by the remarkable life and missionary heart of Dr. Sarah Lantz.

Now in her fourth year as a surgical resident at Carolinas Medical Center, Dr. Huntington feels a kindred spirit with Lantz, who was her friend and mentor at the Charlotte hospital.

Dr. Huntington was mentored by missionary surgeon Dr. Sarah Lantz. She served at Sarah's beloved Mukinge Hospital in April.

Dr. Huntington was mentored by missionary surgeon Dr. Sarah Lantz. She served at Sarah’s beloved Mukinge Hospital in April.

Huntington entered the residency program in 2013—when Lantz was nearing completion of her training and preparing to go to Zambia to serve with World Medical Mission in a bush hospital.

“I first met Sarah when I interviewed at Carolinas Medical Center,” recalled Huntington. “After talking with her I was excited to discover there were like-minded people in the residency program that shared my heart for service.”

A chief resident at the time, Lantz passed along her knowledge and skills to the intern. She also shared her enthusiasm for missionary medicine.

Post-Residency Program
“She was like a hero to the other residents because she was so persistently passionate about what God had called her to do,” Huntington said. “She knew she was going to serve in a mission hospital overseas, giving compassionate care to people who needed it most. That attitude of selfless service, instead of seeking a position at a prestigious hospital in the United States, had a big impact on us.”

The two friends kept in touch when Lantz moved to Zambia the following year to serve at Mukinge Hospital through World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency Program. They discussed plans for Huntington to visit and join her mentor at the operating table.

Sadly, Lantz was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer just 19 months after coming to Mukinge Hospital. She died in January 2016 at the age of 34.

An Eternal Legacy

The young physician’s dedication and joyful personality left a lasting impression wherever she worked.

Last spring, some of her fellow senior residents and faculty at Carolinas Medical Center established the “Sarah Lantz Surgical Mission Fund” in her memory. The scholarship was established to give residents at the medical center the opportunity to experience surgical missions in underserved countries.

Dr. Huntington, second from right, was a medical resident training with Dr. Lantz, third from right, at Carolinas Medical Center.

Dr. Huntington, second from right, was a medical resident who trained with Dr. Lantz, third from right, at Carolinas Medical Center.

Dr. Huntington was the obvious choice as the first recipient of the scholarship. The Idaho native said she grew up knowing she would follow in her parents’ footsteps. Her mother, a nurse and midwife, and her father, a surgeon, first met while serving at a mission hospital in Sierra Leone. Huntington has been on public health and clinical care trips to Zambia, Liberia, Malawi, and Mongolia.

Immediately Huntington got in touch with World Medical Mission to begin making plans for her next mission trip. The destination was already decided.

“After Sarah died, I knew I still wanted to fulfill my dream to serve at Mukinge,” she said. “I would have found a way to go there, even without the scholarship.”

World Medical Mission made the arrangements for Huntington to serve at Mukinge for three weeks in April, and the Carolinas Medical Center scholarship covered the international flight, room and board at the mission base, and associated expenses.

Dr. Sarah Lantz

Dr. Sarah Lantz

While there, she assisted Mukinge’s only full-time surgeon with a wide range of procedures. It was also a bit surreal to be working in the same operating room where Lantz had performed surgeries—and to meet at least one of Lantz’s patients.

During her first week, Huntington consulted with a woman who needed a hernia operation. When she opened the patient’s medical history booklet, she found clinical notes written in Lantz’s handwriting and with her signature.

“You could definitely feel her spirit there, and how much she is still missed. I saw how her work continues to impact both the patients and the community of doctors and nurses at Mukinge,” said Huntington. “I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see firsthand the experiences, the challenges, and the rewards that Sarah faced on the field.”

After she completes residency training in North Carolina, Huntington plans to join her father’s surgical practice in Idaho and do short-term medical mission trips. Her brother will be graduating from medical school at the University of Washington this month. Huntington’s dream is for her family to serve on a mission trip together—and Mukinge is at the top of her list.

Update: On Saturday, May 6, the second annual “Celebrate Sarah Day” was held in Charlotte to raise additional funds for the medical missions scholarship. The event, held at the U.S. National Whitewater Center adventure pavilion, included a dinner, silent auction, and recreational activities.

Support a Missionary Doctor
Post-Residency Program The World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program is a fully funded two-year program for Christian physicians and their families who have been called to medical missions. Following their residency, doctors are placed at a mission hospital to serve within their specialty alongside career medical missionaries. We provide logistical and financial support to these young men and women as they treat patients and share the love of Jesus Christ.

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