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NYT's Nigerian Surgeon in Oakland

NYT's Nigerian Surgeon in Oakland



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Published by LauraNovak

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Published by: LauraNovak on Dec 09, 2009
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12/8/09 1:06 PMThree Colleagues Help One Doctor on a Mission - The New York TimesPage 1 of 2http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/17/giving/17NOVA.html
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
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Three Colleagues Help One Doctor on a Mission
By LAURA NOVAKPublished: Monday, November 17, 2003
OAKLAND, Calif.SEATED amid the wealth of technology in the intensive care unit of the Children's Hospital and Research Center at Oak land, Dr. OlajireIdowu twisted and folded his slender fingers and silenced ashrieking pager while trying to find the precise w ords in English to describe his overseas humanitarian work .Dr. Idowu, a 55-year-old Nigerian-born pediatric surgeon, spelled itout in the rolling cadences of his native language. He likened starting a medical missionto casting stones in the ocean, one pebble dropping into the aby ss at a time.His quest is a case study of what it takes when a small group of committed doctors decides to go it alone in starting a medical nonprofit humanitarian group. The groupthat he and three colleagues from Children's Hospital founded ayear and a half ago, called the Medical C.A.R.E. Corporation, has taught surgical and other lifesavingtechniques tomedical teams in Nigeria and in the Central American nation of Belize, andhas helped save the lives of several children in those countries.But getting to that point has consumed nearly four years of Dr. Idowu's life, not tomention $25,000 of his savings. By the time the team completes its second mission thismonth, he expects the group's bank account will once again balance at zero."That's O.K.," he said. "If I didn't believe it wasn't the right thing to do, I wouldn't havedone it."The idea came to the soft-spoken surgeon in March 2000, when he accompanied afellow doctor on a church-sponsored mission to Nigeria. He wrote a report describing thesuffering he saw there, but could not stop with that. "And that made me say I can't justfold my hands and wait for something to happen," he said.Determined to make contributions, Dr. Idowu, who grew up in Nigeria and went tomedical school there, approached his colleagues at Children's Hospital, where he has been specializing in gravely ill children for the last 12 years. Some agreed to volunteeronce he had a plan. Others reminded him that caring for poor children at the Oaklandhospital, where more than half the patients are on Medicaid, was a mission unto itself. Yet, Dr. Idowu said: "A poor child from East Oakland gets to this hospital, gets Cadillaccare. The same poor person in Africa doesn't even get Volkswagen care."Dr. Idowu first explored working through one of the many established charities thatprovide opportunities for physicians looking to volunteer their services overseas. But heeventually decided "to do something on my own without a group approach," he said.He learned that Katie Sabato, a respiratory care practitioner at Children's Hospital, had
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