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Heart Clinic in American Samoa Promotes Healthy Lifestyles, Fosters Good Relationships

A health clinic established in American Samoa serves as an example of the humanitarian services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the South Pacific and the impact senior missionaries can make in the world.

Elder and Sister Carter serving as medical missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in American Samoa in February 2024.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Eric and Allison Carter, medical missionaries for the Church, touched the hearts and minds of many throughout their mission, leaving a lasting impact on individuals and communities.

Medical missionaries serve in various capacities throughout the world while sharing the charge to help others come unto Jesus Christ. For Elder and Sister Carter, their assignment was developing a heart clinic in American Samoa.

When they arrived on the island, the Carters were asked to establish a well-functioning, self-sustaining cardiology clinic in the Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center (LBJTMC). Coming from medical backgrounds, Elder Carter, a cardiologist, and Sister Carter, a nurse practitioner, were excited for the opportunity to serve the people of American Samoa through improving healthcare services.

As the only hospital in American Samoa, the Carters knew that by establishing LBJTMC’s first heart clinic, they would improve the health of many individuals and communities on the island.

Sister Carter says, “The LBJTMC had requested the Church send a cardiologist because heart disease is American Samoa’s leading cause of death.

“We found a storage room in the medical clinic and put in a desk and a computer. This became the nurses’ station,” she said.

“Then, we cleaned out a vacant exam room where Elder Carter could begin seeing patients.”

Elder Carter assisting patients at the Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa in August 2023.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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With enthusiasm for work and a willingness to serve, the Carters began developing the heart clinic. It provided services to patients ranging from health screenings to treatments in the cardiac lab.

“We were embedded into the medical clinic system,” Elder Carter explained. “In that capacity, we were rubbing shoulders with their healthcare providers, technical staff and the people of American Samoa.

“And to me, that was a big highlight — what we were doing there, trying to have some impact on altering health outcomes by better management.”

Throughout its development, the Carters maintained a mindset of longevity for the clinic, ensuring that it could operate without them in the future. “For 18-months, we worked on developing the heart clinic,” Sister Carter said. “We partnered with a doctor and other staff. It was training, training and seeing patients, with a hope to work towards making it sustainable.”

In time, the clinic was, indeed, running without the Carters. First, Sister Carter stepped away four months before the end of their mission. A month later Elder Carter, too, stopped seeing patients.

Thereafter, they worked to support the newly trained doctors and staff. Sister Carter shared her excitement, noting, “In the last few months, the heart clinic was running independent of us. We have high hopes that our work will be sustainable and that we were able to train [the staff] to a point of doing what we did.”

Ultimately, their work extended far beyond the development of a heart clinic, taking on several other initiatives and campaigns throughout their 23-month mission. They collaborated with government entities and local organizations, including the Departments of Health, Education, and Youth and Women’s Affairs, American Samoa Community College, and the American Samoa National Olympic Committee.

Elder and Sister Carter attend the Olympic Heart Day, an event created to support the Heart Month campaign, in American Samoa in February 2024.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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One of these campaigns was American Samoa’s “Heart Month,” which took place in February. Declared by Acting Governor Talauega E. V. Ale in 2023, the month-long campaign features an array of activities to promote public interest and awareness of heart disease prevention. The Carters were instrumental in planning and organizing events to support the national campaign.

Elder Carter said it was a highlight of his mission.

“In terms of planning and execution, Heart Month was our biggest mountain to climb. We worked with so many organizations and connected with so many lives during Heart Month with our screenings and public events. It was one of the big highlights!” 

During Heart Month, the Carters also provided screenings for obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which are major problems in American Samoa and throughout the South Pacific. Screenings provided not only opportunities for patients to hear about their health but educated individuals on how to improve their lifestyles and encourage better habits.

Sister Carter said that their goal was to help individuals understand that the lifestyle choices people make affect their health. 

These screenings, held in the Church’s meetinghouses and staffed by Church volunteers, provided an opportunity for local communities to create good relationships with Latter-day Saints. Among these volunteers were the full-time missionaries, who shared in the work to empower individuals and lift their health.

Elder and Sister Carter work alongside medical staff to create a sustainable health clinic in American Samoa in May 2023.© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Carters believe God knew their talents in medical and healthcare services would bless the lives of many in American Samoa and will continue to bless individuals and communities far beyond their mission. They have a great love for God’s plan and expressed gratitude for the Savior.

“I feel so grateful that the Lord walked us through all of that. [He] inspired us, enlightened us as to what to do and when to do it so that the heart clinic could become an entity at the LBJTMC hospital,” Sister Carter said.

When deciding to serve a senior mission, Elder Carter says, “For us, the key was just wanting to serve and being available; knowing clearly in our minds and hearts what we were available to do. Then trusting that the Missionary Department would help us know where the best fit would be.”

They believe individuals considering serving a mission in any capacity should put their fears aside and remember Luke 8:50, “Fear not: believe only.”

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