Missionary work is a family affair with Dr. Lori Irelan, and that includes her Wilmington University family.
Dr. Irelan, of the College of Health Professions and the regional chair of the Nurse Practitioner program at WilmU’s Dover and Georgetown campuses, left for a week-long mission this month to Santo Domingo, capital city of the Dominican Republic.
Accompanying her were her husband, her 16-year-old daughter and several WilmU students. Under the auspices of New Jersey-based nonprofit Foundation for Peace, they are staffing a medical clinic and helping with construction projects. Caregivers from across the U.S. and Canada take part in the mission.
Dr. Irelan has been participating in the trips to Santo Domingo for three years. Her daughter, Mackenzie, has accompanied her mother since she was 12, as has her husband, Chris. “He works in the pharmacy,” says Dr. Irelan, “but construction is his niche.” Last year, the group worked on a special needs orphanage.
In June, she added a 10-day trip to Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, that is one of the worst on the planet. Again accompanied by her daughter and husband, Dr. Irelan and the Foundation for Peace team helped care for HIV/AIDS patients, worked in an orphanage, taught at a community health fair, and helped build a church.
While conditions in the Dominican Republic are desperate, with more than 40 percent living below the poverty line on an island ripped by Hurricane Maria last year, Nairobi is much worse. “It’s one of the poorest places in the world,” says Dr. Irelan. “There is no power and little running water.”
Five Nurse Practitioner students, two NP alumnae and another undergraduate, were scheduled to make the trip with her.
Not content to minister to the underprivileged in other countries, Irelan also spearheaded the “Be The Match” stem cell/bone marrow drive at the University this fall. Be the Match runs the United States registry of volunteer stem cell/marrow donors. Marrow transplants are a cure for more than 80 diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, and autoimmune and genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease.
“Lori is an incredible role model of genuine service to the community, both locally and globally,” says Dr. Denise Westbrook, dean of the College of Health Professions. “You won’t find another person more humble and selfless than she.”