Dianne Sherriff is the Africa Mercy’s Crew Physician. She and her husband, Lindsay Sherriff (Hospital Physician on board the ship) met each other 40 years ago, got married, started a family and opened a thriving General Practice in Australia. But it wasn’t until 25 years later that one of Dianne’s life-long dreams finally became a reality.
At 18, she heard missionaries share about the need for help in fields like education, healthcare, church development and more. “My heart was touched and I wanted to serve God overseas,” she recalls.
She applied to medical school and studied to become a Rural General Practitioner. “I planned to be a single doctor working in a developing country,” she recalls. Her thoughts on marriage at the time? Out of the question…until she met Lindsay, that is. He was a man who she never expected to meet, sharing similar loves and interests…it was a match made in medical school!
The newly married couple prepared themselves as “Generalists”, able to practice medicine anywhere. Once ready to start their overseas mission work, they applied to various organizations. But strangely, they all fell through. Despite these ‘closed doors,’ there were other opportunities in Australia, so Dianne and Lindsay built a life together there.
25 years later, with two grown sons, the time seemed right to serve God in a developing nation. “That’s when a Mercy Ships brochure came in the mail,” says Dianne. “There were positions we could both do, that were well-suited for our skill sets.” From there, the couple talked, prayed and applied. They tied up loose ends at home and set out to join the Africa Mercy, volunteering for the past two years in Madagascar and Benin.
What’s it like being the Crew Physician? “My job is a fascinating mix of a medical practice serving both volunteers and Africans who work on the ship. In addition, I get to work with patients, conducting medical examinations before surgery and caring for them after. I thoroughly enjoy both aspects of my role – it’s the best of both worlds,” says Dianne.
It’s no surprise, then, that Dianne’s work is having an impact on the people around her: “I counted it an enormous privilege to work with our women’s health patients in Madagascar and remember many of them individually with great love,” Dianne says. “One patient in particular had been so socially isolated that she would not even make eye contact. But after her operation, she started to blossom. She would come find me when I was visiting. Noticing her, I would open up my arm, and she would sidle in for a hug.”
And hugs are just one of Dianne’s many talents. The Africa Mercy is honored to have a Crew Physician like Dianne and appreciates all she does to support the crew.
Interested in fulfilling your dreams? Take Dianne’s advice: “Don’t anticipate what you will receive – it will be different from what you expect. You will leave with way more than you brought!” www.mercyships.org/volunteer