Dr. Wresch Retires After Thirty-Two Years on Guam

"Four years turned out to be thirty-two"

God chose to bless Dr. Wresch with godly parents, who prized his Christian education above their own needs. His father was a locksmith, and his mother was an accountant.

He first thought he might become a locksmith, like his father. His next interest was electronics. At age 17, he felt a strong call to the gospel ministry. But ministers had to stand up and speak in public—something he knew he could never do. He then thought that perhaps he might serve both God and people by practicing medicine. As he studied high school Spanish, he wondered if he might go to Latin America.

During his pre-medical education, he earned a degree in chemistry. Minor fields of study were religion and Spanish. His medical school was Loma Linda University. Thereafter, he spent a one-year rotating internship at Kettering Memorial Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He stayed there for another year in general surgery.

There also he married Eunice, an Adventist nurse who loved tending tiny babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Dr. Wresch had never imagined himself serving in Africa. But having married an African, he moved to Africa. (Although an American citizen, Eunice was born in Angola. Her parents and both sets of grandparents were also missionaries in Africa.)

Dr. Wresch (left) performing a cataract surgery in Lesotho

Robert and Eunice Wresch served for three years in Malawi. Their first two years were at the Adventist clinic in the city of Blantyre. Their last year was at Malamulo, a rural hospital over one hour away on a terrible road. During that year, the operations that Dr. Wresch performed were mostly hernias and C-sections. He generally did four C-sections per week. But one Sabbath morning, he performed four C-sections, all emergencies, between 8:00 a.m. and noon!

He had been interested in eyes since medical school when the ophthalmology professor showed fascinating pictures. But Dr. Wresch didn't want to become that narrow of a specialist so soon. Thus, he first chose training in general medicine and general surgery. Leaving Malawi, Robert and Eunice returned to California, where he sought an ophthalmology residency. While waiting to be accepted, he practiced family medicine in Loma Linda and Riverside.

His ophthalmology residency at Loma Linda was from 1976 to 1979. Then the faculty asked him to become Chief of Ophthalmology at Loma Linda's new veterans hospital. This he did, teaching ophthalmology residents, while obtaining certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology. 

Eunice Wresch worked as an administrative assistant at the Guam SDA Clinic

During these years, God blessed the Wresches with two children, Keith and Alysia. The family now moved to the Kingdom of Lesotho [le-soo'too], in southern Africa. For 1.2 million people, the nation had only two other ophthalmologists. Based at Maluti Adventist Hospital, Dr. Wresch emphasized treatment of rural Africans. He regularly met his patients in five distant locations, again mostly on bad roads. The mobile team featured two especially trained nurse assistants, plus a dispensing optician. Patients who needed eye surgery, such as for cataract, rode with the eye team back to the hospital. Because of the distances involved, a typical cataract patient might receive a one-month hospital stay, two cataract operations, a pair of glasses, and the rides to and from, all for $100.

How could any hospital provide such services for only $100? None could. But there was a way around: People might have trouble paying $100 so that Grandma could see again. But it was much easier to pay $100 for a fine pair of glasses. Thus, optical dispensing supported his surgical services. His expensive sutures were mostly donated by their manufacturers. A Christian charity in Germany also provided regular support.

Robert and Eunice greatly enjoyed their nine years in Lesotho. But their kids outgrew the little school on the campus, and they thought it might be time for the children to learn to be Americans. They learned that on an American island in the western Pacific was a twelve-grade Adventist school. On the same island was an Adventist clinic with a thriving eye department that had for five years been seeking an ophthalmologist. 

A medical mission trip to the island of Pohnpei

The Guam Seventh-day Adventist Clinic paid for Dr. Wresch to fly from Lesotho to Guam and back. During his two-week visit, he met with the clinic board and the medical board. He took lots of pictures of a tropical paradise. Back in Africa, he showed his pictures to the family. They agreed, "Yes, let's move to Guam."

Members of the Clinic Board understood that Dr. Wresch would need some expensive equipment to practice his specialty.

"What exactly do you need, and how much will it cost?"

Dr. Wresch showed his list. 

"Oh! And if we buy you that expensive equipment, how long will you stay?"

Dr. Wresch replied, "Four years."


On that basis, the Wresches moved to Guam. But the four years have turned out to be thirty-two years. During most of that time Dr. Wresch served as Eye Department Director, and helped to design the new eye clinic. Additionally, he has served on the Ethics Committee of Guam Memorial Hospital.

He has also enjoyed teaching the Bible at home and in his church. For sixteen years, he coached Guam Adventist Academy students for the Academic Challenge Bowl.

Dr. Wresch with students of Guam Adventist Academy at the ACB competition

When Dr. Wresch lost his wife Eunice to a brain tumor, he was crushed. He spent lonely years trying to deal with this loss, often being angry with God. Then he began to remember God's words: It is NOT good for man to live alone.

Eventually, he began to remember Betty Jo, who had lost her husband. She and Eunice had been friends and had taught Sabbath School together. Their children were already friends, having attended Guam Adventist Academy together. Might she? What if? Suppose that?

So there came to pass months of emails, phone calls, and visits to the State of Washington. There were some wonderful hikes in the mountains. The happy result was that Betty Jo agreed to return to Guam, this time as Mrs. Wresch.

Dr. Robert and Betty Jo Wresch's wedding photo

Dr. Wresch claims that with pen and paper he could take medical notes as fast as anyone else. But there was a problem: Although his notes were complete and accurate, he was the only one who could read them.

The solution? Over several years of nights and vacations, Dr. Wresch wrote software teaching Mac computers to understand and print his medical records. Other eye doctors at the Guam SDA Clinic also chose to use his program. Thus began Guam's first electronic medical records. Dr. Wresch's program served the Guam Eye Clinic for 32 years. To keep up with federal requirements, he chose to purchase our present record system and has continued to adapt it to fit our own needs.

During his time on Guam, Dr. Wresch has greatly enjoyed his patients, and they seem to have enjoyed him too. He believes that there is no better way to share the good news about a loving and healing God than by the Christian practice of the healing arts. How has he tried to do this? Grateful for God's leading, he has chosen good people, taught them how to help him, then set them free to do their best.

Dr. Wresch (back row, far right) pictured with the medical providers of the Guam SDA Clinic circa 1990s
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