Service with a Smile: Southwestern Alum and Physician Carries Medical Mission Work to Children of the World

Service with a Smile: Southwestern Alum and Physician Carries Medical Mission Work to Children of the World

Lindsey Gendke

Southwestern Adventist University is proud to foster an environment that prepares graduates for a life of knowledge, faith, and service. Below is a story of an alumni who utilizes the knowledge he gained during his time at the University to make a difference in the world.


Eric Payne, M.D. (class of 2000) has made it his life’s work to put smiles on people’s faces, in every sense of the word. A specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery, Payne says it was during his time at Southwestern Adventist University that the seeds of service were planted. These seeds have since flowered into a vibrant career at The Craniofacial and Plastic Surgery Center of Houston, as well as an impressive record of humanitarian service to underserved children around the world.


This summer, Payne traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe to put smiles on a number of international faces. “We serve children who have cleft palate and cleft lips who are unable to find a surgeon for a surgical repair,” Payne said. “We also see children whom I have operated in the past for follow up care. This marks my 16th mission trip outside of the United States with travel to India, Nigeria, Mexico and Zimbabwe.” In total, Payne has taken 20 medical mission trips.

Remembering the roots of his career beginnings, Payne says, “I appreciate the dedication of my professors in guiding me on my journey towards becoming a physician. Southwestern Adventist University’s Dr. Chadwick, Dr. Jones and Dr. Clayton specifically inspired me to be caring towards others in a loving way.” Payne also shares that his parents were student missionaries when they attended Southwestern Adventist College in the 60s which also helped shape his desire for service. 


In addition, Payne says his mission work was inspired by fellow Southwestern Adventist University student Marc Simpson. After Simpson returned from a year of student missionary work, Payne says, “We would spend time in the cafeteria discussing how much he enjoyed his time, and how it changed his life. He inspired me to look towards mission service, and it was a seed that was planted years ago in my mind.”


Tragically, Payne shares, shortly after Simpson’s student missionary work, Simpson was diagnosed with osteosarcoma cancer of the arm that eventually claimed his life. Simpson never finished college; however, his memory lives on through the scholarship his parents set up in him name. 


Simpson’s legacy of service also lives on through the lives of the people he touched, including Payne’s. “I like to think my work is in remembrance of Marc’s passion for missionary work,” Payne shares. “Since knowing Marc, I have always looked at how my future career choice can help others.”


After completing his degree in Biostatistics at Southwestern Adventist University in 2000, Payne graduated from Loma Linda School of Medicine in 2004 - where he first became interested in craniofacial surgery. Following that, he trained in general surgery at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, El Paso, and was further trained in plastic surgery at the University of Texas at Houston. He finished an additional year of training in Dallas at Medical City Hospital in the subspecialty of craniofacial surgery.


Within the past year, Payne was also named a member on the Board of Directors for two charity organizations: the Christus Healthcare Foundation serving the Houston community and the LEAP Global Missions providing specialized surgical services internationally. In addition, he was an honored speaker as an expert regarding nonsurgical ear molding procedure in Beijing and Chengdu, China. 


University President, Dr. Ken Shaw, Director of Advancement, longtime friend and colleague, Jonathan Seitz, along with their wives recently attended a LEAP Global Missions Annual Fundraising Gala in Dallas.  There they had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Payne and hear about the positive difference LEAP was making for children around the world with cleft palates. Payne was passionate as he spoke about all the amazing people and experiences he has had and continues to encounter on these trips.  What LEAP does is life changing for the families we touch but mostly our lives are changed by seeing their happiness after becoming intimately involved with their struggles.  Hearing how they are shunned in their communities and their internalized guilt for something that is completely out of their control.  Then we come in and are able to witness and give them a real perspective of what God is truly like.  The feeling of God using our hands to heal families physically, spiritually and emotionally is something that is impossible to describe.  


“We are proud of the difference that alumni like Dr. Payne make locally and internationally,” shared President Shaw. “His selflessness and commitment toward serving those with no other options is inspirational.” 


Dr. Payne continues to make an impact in the medical field thanks to his roots at Southwestern Adventist University.


For more information on Southwestern Adventist University, to donate to the Marc Simpson scholarship, or to help fund other student missionaries at Southwestern Adventist University, visit

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