A Focus on Training
mercy-ships-blog-thierno-bah-feature

Guinean Surgeon Empowers Others

Dr. Thierno Bah is a talented surgeon whose experience and skill as an ophthalmic surgeon have made him a vital part of Guinea’s surgical ecosystem. One way that he stands out is his constant search to further his knowledge and ability in his field of expertise, going as far as traveling around the world in search of additional trainings and conferences.

But, according to Dr. Bah, the training he received on board the Africa Mercy in his home country was one of the most significant opportunities he’s ever had to strengthen his own skills — and, in turn, help strengthen others.

mercy-ships-blog-thierno-bah-1

The capacity Dr. Bah developed through the training became the springboard for a new step in his career. He now runs his own clinic in Guinea, offering surgical care and training surgical residents. In 2024, Dr. Bah’s journey with Mercy Ships began its next chapter as he boarded the newest hospital ship, the Global Mercy — this time, as a volunteer ophthalmic surgeon using his expertise to restore vision to patients on board.

The Ripple Effect

When Dr. Bah boarded the Africa Mercy, it was Dr. Abram Wodomé of Togo who came alongside and mentored him.

“If you give someone fish to eat, you feed him for a day,” Wodomé likes to say. “If you teach him to fish, you feed him for his whole life. But if you teach people how to teach other people, then you feed a village for a whole generation.”

Empowering local surgeons, and training them to become trainers themselves, is a key part of the Mercy Ships Education, Training, and Advocacy program. The purpose of the Education, Training, and Advocacy program is to strengthen surgical and anesthetic systems in the host nations where Mercy Ships’ hospital vessels offer free surgeries.

More than a decade ago, Dr. Wodomé himself received surgical training on board the Africa Mercy. In 2010, the hospital ship sailed to Togo for a field service, providing training along with specialized surgeries.

Under the direction of longtime Mercy Ships volunteer Dr. Glenn Strauss from the U.S., Dr. Wodomé learned how to perform the Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS).

“It is a technique that was quite revolutionary in Togo at the time since this technique is best suited for places with modest resources,” Dr. Wodomé said.

The Mercy Ships training empowered Dr. Wodomé to thrive in his career as a surgeon. He went on to establish his own clinic in Lomé, Togo, and train many other surgeons in the efficient and cost-effective MSICS method.

“I decided from that moment on that I would serve my people and use my abilities to help those who need them,” he said.

As of 2021, he had operated on more than 15,000 cataracts and empowered more than 35 surgeons with the MSICS technique — leading to an unquantifiable ripple impact. Dr. Wodomé remains a key partner for Mercy Ships, serving as the organization’s Ophthalmic Specialty Consultant and continuing to share his expertise with other eye surgeons like Dr. Bah.

A Lifechanging Invitation

 In 2019, during a field service to Guinea, the leadership of the Africa Mercy invited students from the local ophthalmic college to come on board for training. Dr. Bah was one of those students. He spent two weeks on the ship, receiving training from Dr. Wodomé.

“I already knew how to do some eye surgeries, but when I came to the Africa Mercy, Dr. Wodomé showed me a better and more efficient way of doing them,” Dr. Bah shared.

The mentorship wasn’t limited to two weeks, though. Dr. Bah has stayed in contact with Dr. Wodomé since that 2019 training.

“Dr. Wodomé is a special person,” Dr. Bah said of his mentor. “He is my coach. He gave me directions for true ophthalmology.”

Greater Works

Dr. Bah now runs his own practice in Guinea, offering excellent ophthalmic surgical care to the people of his home country. He is also training other surgeons in the same surgical technique.

“I am a trainer now,” he said. “I am currently training six ophthalmology residents.”

Just like Dr. Wodomé, Dr. Bah left the ship with the mission of passing on the skills he had gained.

“From the time I left the Africa Mercy till now, I have trained over 35 surgeons,” he said. “My school is in Conakry. Our objective is to train 100 surgeons.”

Fueled by his passion for helping others, Dr. Bah has also returned to the Global Mercy as a volunteer surgeon.

“My experience here is fascinating,” he said of his time on board. “The surgical equipment here is world-class. I am glad I came to volunteer.”

Dr. Bah believes the Mercy Ships Education, Training, and Advocacy program will help address the surgical deficiency in the African continent: “In five years’ time, we will have more surgeons.”

Dr. Bah is still full of gratitude for the training he received from Mercy Ships — and he wants to see even more impact.

“Thank you for training Dr. Wodomé,” he said. “We need three, five, 10 more Dr. Wodomés in Africa.”

Learn more about the Mercy Ships Education, Training, and Advocacy program and its mission of strengthening national surgical and anesthetic systems.