On July 30, 2021, Medical Teams lost a beloved friend in Dr. Travis Ray Cavens. I knew Dr. Travis for 23 years, and I am honored to share how this truly amazing man made a tremendous impact on our organization.
Dr. Travis used his education, skills, and experience as a pediatrician in many of the world’s hotspots, oftentimes serving with his wife, Phyllis, by his side. The scope of his passion for service to save and improve the lives of people in crisis brought him to such places as Cambodia, Laos, India, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mexico, Rwanda, Honduras, Romania, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Kosovo.
He served for 10 years as the founding chairman of the board of directors of Northwest Medical Teams and continued serving on the board for another decade as it grew into Medical Teams International.
Our calling statement at Medical Teams is “Daring to love like Jesus, we boldly break barriers to health and restore wholeness in a hurting world.” Dr. Travis Cavens lived and modeled this calling, grounded in his deep faith and insatiable passion for action.
Daring to Love Like Jesus
Dr. Travis dared to love like Jesus. He regularly volunteered with Medical Teams on month-long mission trips, providing medical care to people living in crisis after a natural disaster and caring for refugees fleeing war, famine or genocide.
In 1998, Dr. Travis served on a hurricane disaster response team in Choluteca, Honduras. There he heard that mothers infected with AIDS often passed the virus to their babies at birth. He learned from a local public health officer that humanitarian assistance had been promised to women with AIDS, but the assistance never came. Instead of asking for help for hurricane victims, the local public health officer asked for help to prevent the spread of HIV from mother to child. This need compelled Dr. Travis to action.
Boldly Breaking Barriers
Dr. Travis Cavens returned to the U.S. with a mission. He boldly broke barriers to health by strongly urging his fellow Medical Teams board members and the executive leadership to get involved in HIV/AIDS programming. He thought it unconscionable to not be involved in AIDS programming and to not be working in Africa where HIV infections were the highest in the world, resulting in more than 16 million AIDS orphans.
In one meeting, I remember the look in Travis’ eyes as he shared this vision with the programs department leadership — a look of sheer determination. He was on a personal mission to help us start an HIV/AIDS program in Africa. Not only was he confident Medical Teams could fill this need, he knew it was the right thing to do. And Dr. Travis didn’t only provide the vision — he put in the work to make his vision a reality.
Dr. Travis encouraged a partnership between the Longview Rotary Club and Medical Teams to create the first AIDS laboratory in Honduras. With Dr. Travis’ tireless help and his many medical contacts, the HIV/AIDS program expanded with partners to Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda and China.
In 2007, Medical Teams established the Ogur Youth Information and Care Center in Uganda. The center provided HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to young people and was run solely by Medical Teams. By 2010, in only three short years, the total number of beneficiaries served was over 75,000 people. (The Ogur Youth Center is still operational today, managed by the local Ministry of Health in Uganda.)
Restoring Wholeness to a Hurting World
Lastly, Dr. Travis restored wholeness in a hurting world. He worked to improve the physical health of people in need as well as their spiritual and emotional health — restoring the dignity of people who are often forgotten and marginalized. He fought and advocated for women and children all over the world by ensuring they received prenatal care, C-sections, immunizations, adequate nutrition and life-saving medicines. He made sure they knew they were seen and valued; they were never forgotten.
In my time at Medical Teams, I witnessed how Dr. Travis lived out his faith for the benefit of others. He served the Lord by compassionately serving and loving others.
Dr. Travis Cavens’ life work reflected his core belief that his Christian faith should center on love and compassion. Luke 4:27 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Dr. Travis loved his neighbor both near and far.
This is the story of the power of one person — one person who wanted Medical Teams to be involved where needs were greatest. Today, we serve more than four million people in need each year.
We may be tempted to think: How can one person make a difference? But one person did make a difference! Dr. Travis made a difference, and his life is only one story. What about the story of your life?
You can make a difference. Make it count.
As Global Ambassador at Medical Teams, Joe elevates the significance of faith in our organization. He ensures our Christian identity permeates throughout all we do, promotes the spiritual growth and well-being of staff and volunteers, and represents the organization to external audiences.