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Humour flavours candid memoir

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A Mission with Passion: Glimpses into the life of a surgeon
Frank Duerksen

Springfield Publishers, 2009
267 pages


Frank Duerksen is an orthopedic surgeon based in Winnipeg, world-renowned for his work with reconstructive surgery on people with leprosy. Now retired, he looks back over his life, offering us vignettes of his work as a surgeon in Paraguay, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Canada.

Beginning with his roots in Paraguay and his initial training in Argentina, he takes his readers to the remote corners of the world of leprosy. Duerksen tells his stories with candour and simplicity, allowing us poignant glimpses into the pain and suffering caused by this devastating disease.

His work demanded long hours and was done most often under less than ideal conditions, from performing surgery with a head lamp attached to the battery of a jeep, to assisting with a delivery on an oxcart, to conducting an examination of a patient inside a downtown garbage dumpster. His stories, accompanied by photos and maps, are told with openness and humility.

Duerksen is candid about his own “thorn in the flesh,” a bipolar mood disorder which has accompanied him throughout his life. He allows us a look into his processing of difficult circumstances and decisions, and does not shy away from sharing his failures. Made of the raw stuff of life, his stories often have a twist of humour.

The book is a moving account of Dr. Duerksen’s dedication, passion, and keen eye for the suffering and marginalized. He frames his work as a divine calling which began when, as an infant, he was dedicated by his father to the work of a medical missionary.

The motivating force behind Duerksen’s vocation and life is his deep faith in God, at work behind the scenes, guiding and equipping him as he labours to restore hands and feet – and hearts.

Frieda Lepp Kaethler is assistant professor of TESOL at Providence Theological Seminary, Otterburne, Man., and is a member of Steinbach (Man.) MB Church.

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