Hood River physician Mike Pendleton leads a three-member team of volunteers from Northwest Medical Teams into war-torn Afghanistan this week.
Pendleton, a family practitioner with Columbia Gorge Family Medicine and an associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University, along with a physician from Seattle and a nurse from Fairbanks, Alaska, make up the first emergency medical team from Northwest Medical Teams to go to the ravaged country.
Pendleton and his team flew to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, last weekend and planned to head across the border this week bound for Rustaq, in the northern Afghan province of Takhar. Pendleton and his team are transporting $21,000 worth of medical supplies, including antibiotics, pain relievers and bandages.
According to a Northwest Medical Teams spokesperson, Pendleton and his team will work with suffering people in villages and refugee camps in Takhar, and lay the groundwork for treating thousands more sick people in nearby Konduz and Baghlan provinces. He is scheduled to return on Dec. 24 -- although the staff at Columbia Gorge Family Medicine have given him a few days leeway in case primitive travel conditions or other complications delay his return.
"He's not scheduled until New Year's Eve," said office manager Diana Lee-Greene. "Hopefully he'll be back by then."
Pendleton has been associated with Portland-based Northwest Medical Teams for several years. In 1997, he spent two weeks on a medical mission in Vietnam.
Northwest Medical Teams expects to send at least 50 more volunteers to Afghanistan on month-long assignments through next year.
"We know we can save thousands of lives if we can provide medical care and medicines to those caught in these desperate circumstances," said Bas Vanderzalm, president of Northwest Medical Teams. The organization is partnering for the relief effort with World Concern, Food for the Hungry and the Central Asian Development Agency.