Page 25 - Middlesex Health & Life - Fall 2012 Issue

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MARK ENGEL, M.D., AND HIS
wife, Isabel Kentengian, make a formida-
ble team of medical volunteers.
Dr. Engel, 53, a pediatric ophthalmol-
ogist with the Children’s Hospital at Saint
Peter’s University Hospital and the
CARES Surgicenter at Saint Peter’s
Healthcare System, has taken his skills
abroad on more than 20 missions to Cen-
tral and South America with Healing the
Children, an international group that pro-
vides medical care to children in need.
Kentengian, 52, who teaches Spanish
at the College of New Jersey in Ewing,
has dual American and Spanish citizen-
ship. She travels with her husband and
puts her fluent Spanish to use coordinating
with the local officials, scouting locations
and acting as a liaison for him and the
medical professionals they travel with.
Good eyesight, of course, is vital for
children, and Dr. Engel treats children
who otherwise might not get the vision
care they badly need. He corrects disor-
ders such as strabismus, in which the
eyes don’t line up properly, leading to
crossed eyes or “walleye,” and ptosis,
in which one or both eyelids droop.
For this pair, traveling and medical
volunteering just naturally go hand in
hand. “It’s really the same motivation as
being a physician,” says Dr. Engel, “try-
ing to help people in need.” For him, that
motivation was instilled by his parents, a
Chicago Unitarian-Universalist minister
and his wife. “I grew up in a household
where you were expected to do service,”
he says. “That was how I was molded.”
The mold held. Dr. Engel finds his
association with Healing the Children
intellectually stimulating as well as ethi-
cally fulfilling. “Visiting these different
countries gets you out of your America-
centric view of the world,” he explains.
He and his wife live in Princeton and
have two sons: Alex, 23, and Michael,
20.
They met at a dance as undergradu-
ates at colleges outside Philadelphia—he
a senior at Haverford, she a sophomore
at Bryn Mawr. “It was the Losers’ Party,”
Dr. Engel says with a laugh. “There was a
senior formal, but we both went to the
alternative party in her dorm.” They talked
all night, and when he graduated, he
delayed medical school and worked at a
research lab at Princeton, waiting for her.
They wed and moved to Chicago, where
he attended Loyola University Medical
School and she got a master’s degree
at the University of Illinois–Chicago.
Naturally, Dr. Engel’s medical volun-
teer trips mean work—a lot of it. On a
recent 10-day jaunt to Ecuador, he led
a team of surgeons who performed 114
surgeries and treated a total of about
500
children. The couple plans to return
to that country in January 2013.
Of course, any hard-working profes-
sionals need vacations that are purely for
relaxation, and Dr. Engel and his wife are
quick to insist that they take those trips
too. They cite a recent visit to Nicaragua
as an example—then concede that they
took time out to meet with local medical
leaders to establish relationships for a
future volunteer mission.
Travel is simply more meaningful,”
says Dr. Engel, “when you’re also helping
others.”
D.L.
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FALL
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UP
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TRAVELER WITH A CAUSE
A DOCTOR BRINGS EYE CARE TO NEEDY CHILDREN OVERSEAS
Mark Engel, M.D.,
and his wife,
Isabel Kentengian