Dr. Mary Bower Leads Medical Initiative in Tanga
For twelve years, Dr. Mary Bower has been a Family Physician in Fremont, but she recently has expanded her professional work by volunteering as a medical representative for the Diocese of Ohio in its work with the Diocese of Tanga in Tanzania, Africa.* This international medical work is something Dr. Bower has considered for time later in her career. The opportunity presented itself earlier than expected, but Dr. Bower decided to get involved now because it was a unique situation.
As a medical student, Dr. Bower did a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. She was excited about the learning opportunity to expand her skills and knowledge: however, she explained that her upcoming trip to Tanga is not a mission trip. Her project is more far-reaching than a typical medical mission. Dr. Bower is working on a five-year health initiative that will focus on understanding what resources are needed by the hospital in Tanga and how the resources we have available in the Diocese of Ohio can be best used. Dr. Bower emphasized, "The focus of the project is to create sustainable health care resources, for a region with limited health care resources and overwhelming health care needs."
Tanga is a city of 250,000 people in Tanzania on the east coast of Africa on the Indian Ocean. It has one hospital run by one physician, Dr. Mmpundu. There are no other medical personnel. There is no x-ray equipment and no ultrasound equipment, but there is an operating room. From her ongoing communication with Dr. Mmpundu, Dr. Bower said she is impressed with what he can accomplish as the only physician in the area, and his breadth of knowledge and skill is inspiring. Over time, the design of this project will allow for a more sustainable improvement to the hospital in Tanga and to the health care available to the local population compared to what could be accomplished with mission work that focused on treating patients. Dr. Bower feels strongly that a mission trip once a year cannot be effective in treating chronic health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes, but with improved resources at the hospital and effective training programs for future health care workers, the benefits to the local people will be many times greater.
Ideally, Dr. Bower wants to identify the basic needs of the hospital and then work at home to meet those needs. Much of this work will involve medical equipment and medical supplies, as the World Health Organization and the United Nations provide medicine. Fortunately, the Diocese of Ohio is blessed with many large teaching hospitals and large medical centers. Older, but usable medical equipment that has been replaced is recycled by MedWish in Cleveland and then made available to projects like one in which Dr. Bower will be participating. Once the medical equipment and supplies are shipped, Dr. Bower will focus on education to use the new resources appropriately. For now, Dr. Bower plans to start with two EKG machines and an ultrasound imaging unit. As the Diocese of Ohio improves the hospital in Tanga, the hospital will then be able to get more governmental support, and that will allow even greater progress. The fact that Tanzania has stable government is one more positive factor that Dr. Bower feels will help the project be more effective.
* The region of Tanga is southwest of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the northern most point of Tanzania along the coast. The diocese of Tanga is slightly larger than the country of Belize (slightly larger than Massachusetts). It has about 56 parish churches, other mission churches, almost 100 priests and over 100,000 Christians. The diocese runs two schools, three hospitals, and agricultural programs.
The medical initiative is viewed as “an incredible learning opportunity” by Dr. Bower—for herself, the diocesan coordinators, Dr. Mmpundu in Tanga, and hopefully the entire Diocese of Ohio and St. Paul’s congregation. In addition to the medical resources for the hospital, Dr. Bower is excited to help Dr. Mmpundu develop a training program for nurses. Having additional trained staff in Tanga will make health care much more available than what a single physician can accomplish. There is much to do with this project, and Dr. Bower first wants to develop relationships and assess the situation to determine what are the most appropriate goals to work toward. After she returns from her first trip this summer, she will have many more details on what lies ahead.