One might say George F. Hilton was a mission president of vision. In addition to helping people in the Tahiti Papeete Mission catch the vision of the blessings of the restored gospel, he also helped many retain or improve their eyesight.
A doctor specializing in the care of the eye, he served as mission president from 1987-89, during which time he reached a segment of French Polynesia's population in a unique way as he befriended and fellowshiped a number of doctors.His recent tenure in Tahiti was his second mission to Polynesia. While serving his first mission on some of the islands of French Polynesia from 1949-52, he realized he would like to study medicine. This decision was prompted by the fact that there was a lack of physicians to care for the health needs of the people on the remote islands of the Pacific.
Because of a lack of good health care, the islanders, blessed with a great gift of faith, would seek out the missionaries to ask for blessings and whatever non-prescription medication they might have.
After many years of studying, teaching and specializing in the care of the eye, Dr. Hilton and his wife, Yvonne, had the opportunity to attend the 1983 dedication of the Papeete Tahiti Temple.
At that time, Dr. Hilton was introduced to a Tahitian physician, Dr. Charles Tetaria, the minister of health for the French Polynesian government. Dr. Tetaria, upon learning of Dr. Hilton's affiliation with the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, invited him to return to Tahiti as a visiting professor at Central Hospital, French Polynesia's main hospital located in Papeete.
In July 1984, Dr. Hilton returned to Tahiti to fulfill a three-week visiting professorship, donating his time and some equipment to the people of French Polynesia, the people who had been so kind to him during his first mission.
Upon receiving his call to preside over the Tahiti Papeete Mission in 1987, he was encouraged by the First Presidency to volunteer his services a few hours each week at Central Hospital. This resulted in his donating four to six hours weekly in his specialized medical care.
He did consultations and taught local doctors in new diagnostic and surgical techniques, laser treatments, and surgical procedures for retinal detachments.
He introduced "pneumatic retinopexy," an operation he developed for the repair of retinal detachments with a relatively simple method. This was enthusiastically received by local eye surgeons, some of whom had been eager to develop their skills in this method.
The Tahitian news media were complimentary of his work here, not only as a surgeon but also as a representative of the Church.
During the time he was a mission president in Tahiti, Dr. Hilton made friends for the Church among the professional segment of the community. He and his wife recently returned home to the Lafayette Ward, Oakland California Stake.