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Dr. Mark Sugi

Perhaps it’s the deep sense of values and humanity that his mother instilled in him that made Mark extremely comfortable as he tended to hundreds of patients with various ailments and diseases in Kenyan poor and remote villages. Or perhaps it’s because of his deep belief that health is of paramount importance in leading a happy life, and considers the opportunity of providing free healthcare to those without access a great privilege. Mark joined MMK for the 2013 trip as one of the three doctors during MMK’s medical outreach to different remote locations including the chiggers clinic.  It was also one of  MMK’s most challenging outreach trip in Shompole.

Mark grew up in a small desert town in southern California and graduated from Johns Hopkins University and then returned to the west coast to attend medical school at UCLA. His mother Anna Sugi, was a community leader and women’s health advocate who taught Mark and his sister Michelle the importance of relationships and service. She immigrated to the US from Italy in her 20’s and lived her life with a motto of service above self serving as the administrator of Choice Medical Group and founded the popular Today’s Woman Expo. Anna Sugi lost her battle to breast cancer and died quietly in December 2010. Clearly, her passion to giving back rubbed on Mark who eventually became an orthopedic surgery resident at UCLA.

When I first met Mark, I was impressed with his extensive travel history for he has been all over the world, literally. “Traveling to rural communities, no matter what part of the world, is an insightful experience. I think the most exciting aspect of travel and outreach is recognizing the humanity and appreciating the common bond that exists in all people irrespective of their cultural differences” he notes, saying that “the most dissatisfying element of international missions is the feeling that you are leaving people behind – there is a certain transience that is difficult to overlook”. But he was drawn to MMK because of its annual trips, which provides a sense of continuity and building upon relationships that have already been formed with local communities. Aside from delivering basic supplies and medications (especially Infectious Diseases-related), reaching out to these areas provides an opportunity to teach good health practices and for information exchange, “for the benefit is certainly mutual between both parties” he quickly points out. “Images that stand out in my mind include a little homeless boy at the chiggers clinic and the young Maasai man that asked me to exchange his spear for my watch. I had an amazing experience in Africa and hope that, through careful planning, I can contribute something meaningful and with continuity in the years to come”.

Mark, a seasoned traveler, enjoyed getting to know the locals and trying the local menus. I remember during one of our long trips when we stopped to gas up one of the vans in the middle of nowhere. I turned around and saw Mark sitting in the middle of the road with his MAC laptop with local Maasai men around him where he was showing them something in his laptop with no translator. I couldn’t help but smile. Sometimes you do not need to communicate with words. Harmony, kindness and compassion overcomes language barriers. And that is just how Mark is, so inviting and full of compassion and generosity. On our last day, one of the drivers commented on how nice Mark’s watch looked. And Mark, without any hesitation, removed his super expensive fancy watch and handed it over to the driver whose mouth was agape with disbelief. He was going like; “you are giving this to me?” And Mark just quietly nodded. That driver will never forget Mark’s gesture of kindness for the rest of his life. And there are other many more lives he touched with his gentle manners, his kind heart and his healing hands.

Dr Mark Sugi has decided to transition specialties to interventional radiology, which he will begin pursuing at the Mayo Clinic. He keeps Kenya close to his heart and is undertaking efforts to bring portable ultrasound to parts of Kenya and training the local doctors on how to use them. “I hope to bring the resources available to me as a radiologist together with this rich international experience in Kenya to contribute to the budding imaging programs available in remote areas with underserved populations”. I know his mom is smiling in heaven.

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