India Howell, co-founder of the Rift Valley Children’s Village in rural Tanzania, shared her experience in the course of providing for less privileged children in Tanzania. She talks about the story behind the Tanzanian FAME Health Project.
A Californian couple, Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, traded their luxurious life for a health rescue mission in Tanzania. In what is described as a “brush with death”, the couple decided to return the favor done by Tanzanians by relocating to the East African country and working full time on the health system.
The couple was invited to Tanzania on tourism basis. In the spirit of adventure the doctor was climbing the Kilimanjaro mountain. On his way up, he had a heart failure.
His touring aides helped him and took him to the hospital. His life was saved. The doctor assured him that he would be okay. He also made another statement that prompted Dr Frank into a major life changing decision.
After attending to him, the Tanzanian doctor said to him, “You’ll be okay, but we need doctors here in Tanzania a lot more than they need them in California.” According to Dr. Frank, a former cardiac anesthesiologist, this was the light bulb moment.
Dr. Frank and his wife, Susan Gustafon – a former school psychologist, went back to California, quit their jobs, sold all their properties and relocated to Tanzania. Dr Frank said he knew he had to give back to Tanzania for saving his life.
What better way to do that than devoting the rest of his lifetime to the improvement and development of Tanzania’s rural health care. Before the Kilimanjaro accident, Frank and Susan, were already providing mobile health care in Tanzania. Together they took up the Tanzanian FAME Health Project.
Frank and Susan launched the Foundation for African Medicine and Education (FAME). Under this foundation, the Couple have set up a hospital in Karatu. The health facility caters to as much as 8, 000 people in the community and beyond. The Californian couple discovered the unhealthy delay from patients in reporting to the hospital.
“The vast majority of what we see are just common infections and things that have just been ignored for months. Instead of coming the first few days they wait three months till their entire body is about to give out.”
The Karatu hospital also renders training services. In all the hospital has employed 8 doctors, 30 nurses and 9 Laboratory Technicians.
“We believe in building capacity here, and doing that with Tanzanian healthcare providers… That’s part of the bigger picture.”
The Tanzanian FAME Health Project works hand in hand with India Howell’s Rift Valley Children’s Village. The altruistic doctor now has the nickname of “the bush doctor.”