The city of Daule’ in central Ecuador is well known for its production of rice. But like many other cities of South America, it is similarly renowned as an area of great poverty with limited access to medical services. 

Dr. Bryan Tune, an assistant professor of nursing at Fresno State, went abroad in May to serve with a team of volunteers for Medical Ministry International

Tune is a two-time Fresno State alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in 2001 and his family nurse practitioner degree in 2004. Now a certified registered nurse anesthesiologist, he said the annual trip serves as a “reset button,” reminding him of reasons why he pursued the educational and career paths he did. 

His recent trip to Daule’ was the 13th such medical missions trip Tune has taken over the course of his nearly 20-year career. In addition to several countries in South America, he has provided missionary service to the people of Central America, Africa and Haiti.

Tune said some communities in Daule’ have little to no access to medical services, or where there is access, people struggle with money and resources for required and essential medical-surgical care. 

The project Tune participated in was focused on providing gynecologic surgical care, general surgery care and cleft lip and cleft palate reconstruction. A great emphasis was also placed on preventive and primary care. It was part of the “Healthy Women” project, under the “Preservation of Life” program, and provided specialized women’s health care.

“During this mission, we focused on women’s health issues to help extend or improve quality of life,” Tune said. 

Among the procedures, Tune said the group of 27 volunteers — surgeons, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, nursing students and more — performed hysterectomies, oophorectomies and provided pediatric care in the form of surgeries for cleft lip and palette for children who “suffered from disfiguring deformities that limit their ability to lead a normal life.”

“We didn’t choose the agenda,” Tune said. “The agenda chose us.”

In addition to medical procedures and interventions, the team also provided a training opportunity for those who are serving in the medical field in the area. Medical Ministry International’s doctors and nurses lectured on different topics related to the identified needs of the communities. There were learning opportunities for health care workers and the patients regarding STD/HIV/AIDS/HPV, breast cancer education, surgical advancements and evidence-based anesthesia and pain management care.

In almost all cases, the patients expressed deep and profound gratitude. 

“We were a Godsend to them,” Tune said. “They almost always came back the next day with gifts of food or crafts, because that was all they had.”

Tune, a Central California native, also serves as chief executive officer and managing partner for Central California Anesthesiology Solutions. He is dual certified with the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and a fellow in the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiologists.