SHANDERA: MDA brings health, hope to the poor in the world’s remote areas

February 25, 2020

Mission Doctors Association (MDA) is the national Roman Catholic medical mission board. Founded in the late 1950s in Los Angeles by Monsignor Anthony Brouwers, who served as the director of the Propagation of the Faith in Los Angeles, the group responds annually to the needs of remote foreign missions and the requests of bishops in underserved areas.
The group supports the provision of medical personnel in these areas. An ancillary organization, Lay Mission Helpers, provides paramedical and support staff for the missions.

Currently, MDA provides services to hospitals and clinics in Africa (Tanzania, Uganda) and Latin America (Ecuador, Honduras and Peru). In the past, other served countries included hospitals and clinics in Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Thailand (in refugee camps) and Zimbabwe. Plans are underway to also serve such facilities in Belize, Ghana, Malawi and Sierra Leone in the near future.

The organization provides primary care and dental support at the clinics served. Personnel serve as volunteers for short-term (one- to three-month) assignments and as paid employees for long-term (two- to three-year) assignments. The clinics and hospitals served often provide the support of visiting ophthalmologists, orthopedic surgeons and otolaryngologists who provide intense care over a one- to four-week period.

An annual spring retreat in Los Angeles provides a period of reflection and discernment for possible missionaries.
The goal of the organization is to provide long-term sustainable care and work with local Catholic physicians, sisters and priests, in particular to enhance preventive care. Physicians with the organization include family practitioners, internists, obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians.

The work is a testament to the Catholic preferential option for the poor, and is a testament to the faith of medical personnel who often provide time and resources at intervals of career change or retirement. The organization encourages inquiries and attendance at the annual retreats.

The serving medical personnel exemplify the principle of serving some of the most understaffed facilities where patients are often those in greatest need in the developing world.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Elise Frederick in Los Angeles at, or me locally at

A testimony of their work is available at the website

Dr. Wayne Shandera, an internist with Baylor College of Medicine, served short term with MDA in Ecuador and served intermittently in Guatemala with the Houston-based San Martin de Porres.