A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful fortune of reconnecting with someone from my past. In 2007 I lived and worked in Tanzania and through that work had the pleasure to meet Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson. In rural Tanzania, Dr. Frank, as he is known, stands out. He is a tall white guy with an infectious laugh and booming voice. An American cardiac anesthesiologist, he spent the early part of his career building a successful practice in California. However, in 2002, after a near death experience as a tourist climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, he and Susan changed paths. They sold everything, uprooted their lives, and moved to Tanzania where he has practiced medicine ever since.
They started by conducting mobile medical clinics in rural Tanzania out of a large red and white van reaching areas with no access to Western medical care. Today, Frank and Susan run a 24 bed hospital. The hospital, located in Karatu, Tanzania, continues to grow and recently began to offer not only maternity care but has a fully functioning surgical ward where they are now able to deliver babies via c-section. They have an outpatient clinic, a dispensary, and a laboratory and are almost entirely staffed by Tanzanian nurses, doctors, lab techs, and administrators. Their laboratory, operational since 2011, has a fully automated blood chemistry machine which makes them the only hospital within a 140 kilometer radius with the diagnostic capabilities it provides. The lab is also in the process of developing a telepathology program in conjunction with ASCP, the College of American Pathologists, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
As their reputation spreads throughout the region, their catchment area continues to expand. In a country where the average doctor to patient ratio is approximately 1/50,000 they are providing critical care to a large population of people.
Our recent interaction was while they were in town on a fundraising tour in the United States. Over 70% of their funding comes from grants and individual donations. They are always in need of more support. In addition, they have a small volunteer program for people with the skills that match their current needs.
They are wonderful people doing amazing work. I could sing their praises for hours, but Dr. Frank is the best at telling his story. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-ud_cS6Mek and find their organization, FAME Africa, online: http://www.fameafrica.org/.
-Marie Levy spent over five years working at American Society for Clinical Pathology in the Global Outreach department.