Hello Family and Friends,
As most of you know I have spent a considerable part of my professional life in sub-Saharan Africa. My experiences in sub-Saharan Africa have been rich and varied. Many of you, my friends and family, have encouraged me to write them up. Momentous occasions include having lunch with the then Zairean despot President Mobutu, guiding the First Lady of France on a tour of HIV/AIDS facilities in Zaire, spending a night in a Zairean prison, engine malfunction in a Russian aircraft overflying the Congo River Basin and enabling several young Congolese physicians to pursue advanced training in Europe and the United States and then to return to Africa.
The following links provide descriptions of two of the more important activities in which I have been involved:
1. The Gambian Hepatitis Intervention Study (GHIS) in The Gambia, West Africa
2. Projet SIDA in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire)
As I passed my 70th birthday this past summer, I increasingly realized that it was “pay back” time. During the previous 44 years when I often lived in or made extensive visits to the Africa, my primary focus has been to work with host country nationals to conduct evidence-based research that would provide local Ministers of Health with objective data on which sound public health/resource-responsible decisions could be made. This work concurrently enabled me to build a curriculum vitae that helped me advance up the academic ladder including the John Rodman Paul Chair in Epidemiology at Yale University School of Medicine, Chair and Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Physician Educator and Professor UCSD School of Medicine. None of this professional advancement would have been possible without the assistance of my family and my many African colleagues and individuals enrolled in the studies my colleagues and I carried out in sub-Saharan Africa.
As many of you know, in the past few years I have moved back to be “closer to the foot of the bed”, meaning that I have once again begun to see patients in outpatient and inpatient settings. Re-establishing my clinical skills has been a challenge. During the past few months, I have thought about ways that I could “pay back”. I have looked at positions in national and international organizations. None of these seemed right for me. At the end of the day, I have decided to volunteer my services as an epidemiologist and as a clinician to an organization I have long held in high esteem, the Catholic Medical Missionary Board (CMMB).
CMMB has a rich tradition of providing medical services to women and children in frontline countries where lack of such service often means premature death. I have selected to initially serve in Africa’s newest country, South Sudan. Many of you may think that I have lost my mind. I do remember a similar response of many friends when I decided to relocate my family to the troubled country of Zaire back in 1986. Going to Zaire, in retrospect, was one of the most important moves I ever made. In Southern Sudan, I will be posted to a hospital in the southwest of the country where violence has been at a minimum.
As a result of this, it is likely that there will soon be a large inward migration of refugees seeking safety. CMMB is monitoring this situation; plans for a possible evacuation have been well thought out. I feel that my long-standing public health skills and my recently renewed clinical skills will serve me well in this initial posting that will begin before the end of 2016. I am very pleased with this development. I have been struggling with retirement and have only recently come to realize that putting my feet down and watching the grass grow is just not for me. With the capable assistance of CMMB I will be posting a weekly blog to let all of you know what is happening in Africa’s newest and probably most challenged country, South Sudan.
CMMB works hard to recruit and send qualified and caring volunteers where they are needed most. In an effort to help offset some of the costs involved with placing me in South Sudan, I have set up this fundraising campaign ADD LINK. I am aiming to raise at least $2,500. If you are able to give you can either click on the link and visit my Crowdrise page (https://www.crowdrise.com/robertryder1)
or alternatively, send a check to CMMB:
100 Wall Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY
All donations are tax deductible and you will receive a tax-exemption letter from CMMB.
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