Dr. Willard Campbell of Premier Surgical (right) and two nurses operate on a patient in Guatemala.

Dr. Willard Campbell of Premier Surgical (right) and two nurses operate on a patient in Guatemala.

For more than two decades, Dr. Willard Campbell of Premier Surgical Associates has been a respected surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville. Dr. Campbell has cared for and performed general and vascular surgeries on thousands of patients in the Knoxville region over the years. He loves being a surgeon and serving the people of East Tennessee.

But every year in January, Dr. Campbell shares his surgical skills and expertise with the people of Antigua, Guatemala. He and a team of other Knoxville physicians and nurses journey 2,500 miles around the globe for an intensive two-week medical mission. The group carries with it donated medical equipment and supplies.

The 2015 Knoxville Medical Mission team.

The 2015 Knoxville Medical Mission team.

“All year long we gather gloves, drapes, sutures, and any kind of surgical equipment we can use in the operating rooms,” explains Dr. Campbell.

Their destination is Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, a medical clinic that is supported and staffed by volunteer medical groups from around the world. The clinic draws needy patients from throughout the Central American country.

“People may hike or bicycle in. Some take buses for hours to get to the clinic because they need surgery,” says Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Campbell’s group, Knoxville Medical Mission, focuses on providing general surgery, urology, and gynecology services. This year, in just one week the team performed 68 surgeries including gall bladder removal, hernia repair, kidney removal, prostatectomies, hysterectomies and mastectomies.

Dr. Willard Campbell (left) and Dr. Kenneth O’Kelley rest between surgeries in Guatemala.

“For many people in Guatemala, medical care is very difficult and expensive to get, so many people go without treatment,” says Dr. Campbell. “The capital city is more modern, but you don’t have to step far to see the poverty.”

Dr. Campbell, who got involved in the mission 12 years ago at the encouragement of Premier surgeon Dr. Lytle Brown, says he is always touched by his Guatemalan patients. “They are all very, very grateful. They never complain – they say ‘Thank you! Thank you!”

Dr. Campbell is proud to have seen the medical clinic grow over the years. “It is extremely clean and although we don’t have the latest equipment, it functions at a very high level.” He is grateful to be able to contribute to this important effort.

“I enjoy it and whether I’m in Knoxville or Guatemala, I’m in my element doing surgery. I like that we can provide a valuable service to people who need it.”

Checks or donations to support the effort can be mailed to: Knoxville Medical Mission Foundation c/o Dr. Willard Campbell; Premier Surgical 9430 Parkwest Blvd., Suite 310; Knoxville, TN 37923.