Sophomore Performs Surgery on Pacific Isle

Somewhere between Hawaii and Australia there is an island less than a square mile in area that contains around 500 people, one store for canned goods and no doctors.

Jill A. Denny '97-'98 spent two weeks on this island, called Kili, assisting her father, Dr. David M. Denny, with badly needed eye operations.

The 10-minute operations that Dr. Denny performed were removals of the thickening of the white parts of the eye due to solar and environmental radiation, a painful condition common in equatorial countries.

Kili is part of the Marshall Islands, which were formerly under possession of the U.S. Its inhabitants, orginally residents of Bikini, another island, were forced to leave their homes in the 1950s so Bikini could be used for nuclear testing.

The Dennys found out about the islanders needs through a volunteer medical agency called Mercy International. Jill Denny accompanied her parents and sister to the island on June 23.


Denny, a psychology concentrator and pre-med, has gone with her family to other locations to help provide volunteer medical aid, but this was her first trip to Kili.

"It was amazing to me that the island was so small I could see water on both sides at all times'" Denny said.

Kili has no trade or industry but it does have the compensation money of theAmerican government. But as Denny explains, "thesepeople have no need for money. Their form ofpossession is in their land, and this they havelost,"

The people of Kili "spend much of their liveskilling time" according to Denny, who adds,"they're very good at basketball."

The Marshall Islands are one of the world's fewremaining matriarchal societies. The people therespeak the obscure language of "Marshallese."

The islands are all atolls, formed in a halfmoon shape from the reefs that grow around sunkenvolcanoes. The widest point of the capital of theislands, Majoro, is only 75 years in diameter.

The bomb that was dropped on Bikini was named"Bravo" and was approximately 1200 times morepowerful than the bombs dropped in Japan. TheAmerican government moved the people of thisisland to a neighboring one called Rongulap duringthe tests.

Denny recalls the stories that she heard of"the children playing in the fallout as if it weresnow."

The U.S. apparently did not realize that thewinds would endanger the people on Rongulap. Tenyears ago the remaining people were moved to Kili.

Despite the loss of the generation before themto extreme cases of cancer, all of the people ofKili wish to return to Bikini to start over andtry to rebuild their island.

Residents of the island have one lawyer inWashington D.C. that is trying to convince thegovernment to participate in a completerestructure and rejuvenation of the radioactiveisland, and Denny said she hopes "the situationfor the people of Kili will improve."

On July 8th, Denny and her family returned toAmerica after performing all of the necessaryoperations.

"It was an amazing experience that I never willforget," she said.Photo Courtesy Jill A. DennyResidents of Kiki express their desire toreturn to Bikini Island.