New York family takes a journey to Cameroon to serve as doctors

BUFFALO, New York (WIVB) – The Helm family is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. The couple and their two children are leaving on Tuesday, December 29 to go to Cameroon.

“We are extremely excited,” Dr. Ethan Helm said.

The couple sold their cars and gave away many of their items. They’re packing up to serve as doctors in the central African country.

“We are looking forward to taking our kids into a different culture. They can see and experience life from different angles,” Dr. Elizabeth Helm said.

This has been a dream of theirs since they were young.

After graduating from Williamsville High School, Dr. Elizabeth Helm’s goal was to finish med school at the University at Buffalo, her residency, then take on this journey. “I knew during that time that I wanted to work abroad.”

Her husband was inspired to do this after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 15-years-old. He beat it, but realized if he was born in another country, he might not be here today. “Really if I was born in much of the world, I’d be dead. I would have no chance with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Kids are dying of starvation, of diarrheal disease, of respiratory illnesses.”

After an extensive application process, the duo learned they were accepted into Samaritan’s Purse Post Residency Program. Ethan will work as a pediatrician at the Mbingo Hospital in Cameroon. Elizabeth will be a family practice doctor.

“That is a very poor area of the country. They are playing a key role at Mbingo Hospital. That’s a training hospital. They’ll be involved with training resident physicians and national doctors, as well as hands on treatment themselves,” Ken Isaacs, the Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse.

The Helm’s mentors have prepped them about how to deal with some of the challenges they may face, such as limited resources or mortality.

Regardless of what may come their way, the Helms are very excited about this next chapter in their life. The paid program lasts for two years. Even though they haven’t left yet, they’re already thinking about how they can serve next. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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