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Monday, May 14, 2012

St. Francis Health physician, family journey to Belize for long-term medical mission

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – When Jennifer Bigelow, M.D., heads south with her family, it will be for more than spring break. A Mooresville-based family practice physician, Bigelow will be turning over her practice to others during a long-term medical mission trip to Central America.

She will be taking along her husband, Lee, and three of their five children, Tabby, 12, Cassie, 10, and Ellie, 8. The Bigelows will be leaving in August for two years in Belize, a country roughly half the size of Indiana between Mexico’s southeastern border and the Caribbean.

Bigelow will be ending her practice in the Mooresville Medical Pavilion on June 29. Dr. Timothy O’Donnell in Plainfield and Dr. Ryan Lacy in Martinsville are taking the majority of her patients during her absence.

The family’s destination is a small clinic in northwestern Belize that serves 15-30 patients a day. She will provide primary care, as well as obstetric care in emergencies. Most babies in the country are delivered at home with midwives.

The clinic boasts a pharmacy, a registered nurse clinical director, a medical assistant, a pastor and an office assistant, with a staff of eight when running full time.

No full-time physician has served the clinic for three years. Bigelow said the need is always there for additional doctors, nurses and pharmacists to serve the area short-term, even for a couple of weeks.

Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize is a country of 300,000 people with vast, unmet needs, according to the Bigelows. Because it was a British colony until 1981, English is the official language, but Spanish and Mayan are most commonly spoken.

Belize has an estimated 60 public health clinics providing primary care, but most suffer from inadequate staffing, too many patients and lack of equipment and medicine. Only about $125 per person is spent annually on medical care in Belize.

The Bigelows hope to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of the Belizean people with “Christ-centered care.”

Lee, who owns a construction business, will be using his administrative skills in the medical clinic, as well as serving in men’s ministry and helping with short-term work teams.

The Bigelows are making the trip as part of Mission to the World which is headquartered in Lawrenceville, Ga., and under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in America.

The family is hoping for prayers and financial assistance to support their mission. Donations may be made in their name (#10859) to Mission to the World, P.O. Box 116284, Atlanta, GA 30368-6284, or visit