Fulkerson serves in Nicaragua

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Doctor travels twice annually to heal people with word of God

By Anna Taylor
The Record


When Dr. Gay Fulkerson isn’t spending time caring for patients at her family practice in Leitchfield, she’s likely to be caring for strangers in Nicaragua and sharing the gospel.

Fulkerson travels abroad on a mission trip twice a year. Most recently, she visited Los Chiles, Nicaragua, in the first week of March.

Fulkerson travels to these areas as a part of Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International’s Mission Trip Program.

“There was a team of 66 of us from the U.S.,” she said of her trip this month. “They have to go to church in order to get to go see us unless they are so sick they can’t do that. We have a dental clinic, a pharmacy that gives out meds, a vet team that goes out and vaccinates and they preach to the cowboys because they don’t come in and then we have two evangelism teams that go house to house. We have an eye glass clinic and a store that gives out clothes, shoes, beans and rice.”

Fulkerson has been traveling to at least one mission trip annually since 2005 but has been going twice a year since 2011.

“They needed a physician to supervise the medical clinic,” she said. “I made a lot of good friends on the team. Most of them are from Kentucky, but not everybody.”

The team of doctors provide people with free care while they are there to meet their medical needs as best as they can. It’s the permanent solution that Fulkerson hopes they receive.

“We’re kind of the drawing card,” she said. “They want the medicine. They want to see medical people. And the need is great. They have parasites, it’s warm and damp a lot of the year so they have yeast infection everywhere, so the need is great, and that’s good but eternal salvation is better. Our role is basically the drawing card to get them there, hopefully.”

The medical care Fulkerson and the team of doctors provide to them is different than the everyday issues she sees in Leitchfield.

“Over there, you can still see every once in a while a case of chicken pox, measles, things that we don’t usually see here,” she said. “And parasites — we don’t usually see that many here. They are very grateful people. They will thank you for coming and trying even if you can’t do anything.”

On top of helping the people in Nicaragua, Fulkerson has adopted a family that she helps support financially. She met the mother of the family a few years ago when she came to the clinic for medical care and her diagnosis ended up being a severe case of pneumonia.

“She passed out about the time she got in the door,” Fulkerson said. “…She was trying to raise her five kids, plus an orphaned neighbor. The missionary said they needed help because five of the six were girls and if someone doesn’t help them and try to break this cycle with education, they will be pregnant before they can finish school.”

Since the mother cannot read, Fulkerson said it’s hard for her to get a job other than picking coffee, which doesn’t provide her with much income.

Other than monthly monetary support, the missionary occasionally provides the family with necessities, including a shelter.

“She had tied bamboo sticks together with rope and had a piece of plastic for the roof,” Fulkerson said. “When it rained, the whole house would be wet because there was nothing to stop the rain.”

Fulkerson, who has been in family medicine for 19 years, started her private practice in October 1996.

She attended the University of Louisville for her undergraduate degree and med school and worked at the Trover Clinic in Madisonville during her residency before moving back to Leitchfield. Fulkerson was also the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians president in 2009-2010.

“She’s done a lot,” said Ina Fulkerson, her mother. “Before she started school even, she’s always wanted to be a doctor. She’s never had any question about it.”

While in med school, Ina said Gay struggled with test anxiety and worried that she wouldn’t make it through.

“She cried all of the time until she got a cat,” Ina said. “Freddy (the cat) should probably have the M.D.”

Ina works at her daughter’s clinic, helping with finances, payroll and clerical work. She gets to see all of the photographs and hear about the experiences Gay has while on her mission trips.

While Gay doesn’t pressure her mother to travel with her and worship with the people of Nicaragua, she anticipates she eventually will join her or complete a mission trip of her own.

“She’s beginning to talk about it,” she said.