#lchaimprize: How A Handful Of Surgeons Is Doing God’s Work In Africa

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How can a doc in Africa use half a mil? From a continent’s worth of compelling answers, the African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF) announces the four finalists for its inaugural Gerson L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service.

On Nov. 28, one of these doctors, on behalf of an African hospital, will receive the largest-ever prize in clinical care, a Jewish-funded boost, interestingly, to the shrinking field of long-term Christian missionary medical help in Africa:

  • Dr. Jason Fader, serving in Burundi-a nation of 10 million people and 13 surgeons. Outside the capital, he is the only full-time surgeon. Dr. Fader’s prize money would expand a surgical ward, better educate new local doctors, and improve fracture care for lower limbs.
  • Dr. Stephen Foster, in Angola for 38 years, heads a growing medical center. The country of 26 million has almost no modern healthcare. Dr. Foster wants a rotating internship to upgrade new Angolan physicians–preparing 24 well-trained MDs to each see some 4,000 patients annually.
  • Dr. William Rhodes, in Kenya, a general and plastic-reconstructive surgeon—has 15,000 surgeries behind him. His prize money would help him mentor two young Kenyan surgeons, thus doubling the hospital’s operations. It would expand services outside his region and buy much-needed basic surgical equipment.
  • Dr. John Spurrier, operating in rural Zambia. His prize money would help improve HIV care for 4,000 patients in rural areas, improve electricity and water for his mission hospital, and provide suitable housing for staff.

Mark Gerson, who, with his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson, underwrites the prize, calls missionary doctors “the untold humanitarian story of our era.”  “Forsaking every comfort and convenience, they bring medical care to an entire continent’s poor,” Gerson said. “Often, in vast populations, they’re the only physicians.”

AMHF has its hand on the pulse of Africa’s needs through its front-line physicians. “This knowledge is local,” Gerson says. “At a given moment, the highest return on investment in lives saved may be housing for nurses, a functioning X-ray machine, training for a physician assistant . . . a shipment of pharmaceuticals. Supporting the medical front lines, we can amplify extraordinary good for a comparatively modest investment.”

Gerson co-founded AMHF with Dr. Jon Fielder, serving in Kenya. After attending Williams College together, Gerson became a NYC-based entrepreneur, Fielder a physician, and the friendship continued. “The Torah says to love the stranger and to care for the widow, the fatherless and the orphan. Jesus said, ‘Do it to the least of these and you do it to me,’” Fielder said. “For Jews and Christians to help remote African hospitals serve Christians, animists, Hindus, and Muslims, is a bright promise that great good is possible.”

The first 2016 Gerson L’Chaim Prize drew 26 applications from long-term medical missionaries, Catholic and Protestant, in 12 countries. Candidates’ projects span women’s health centers, African doctor training, cancer diagnosis and treatment, pediatric surgery training and care, heart surgery, mobile HIV care, malaria prevention, and ER centers. The selection committee combines current and former medical missionaries, African healthcare experts, and on-the-ground clinicians.

Watch the video below:

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