Like any other profession, there are demons wandering around the medical community that we all have heard of… Almost every day, we read stories about men and women who risk all that they have to get help from their physician, but sometimes the effort these doctors put is not enough to save their lives despite the amount of money their patients spend. Given this truth, it’s understandable that some of us lose trust with our doctors, but that doesn’t mean doctors who are passionate about their jobs no longer exist.
Many doctors refer to themselves as healers, as if they have some special power to bring to life to their ailing patients. Some do everything they can to save their patient’s life, even if it means risking everything. These are the list of doctors and healers who truly value people’s lives and help them as much as they can.
Dr. Robert Paeglow (United States)
This doctor is one great example of a man who does everything just to make the world a better place. Meet Robert Paeglow, or commonly known as Dr. Bob. He gave up everything to open a clinic in the poorest section of Albany, New York, where most doctors wouldn’t dare to go. It was his vision to open a center where patients could get not only medical help but also spiritual aid. And Dr. Bob did make it happen and made what was once just an ambition to a reality.
Dr. Bob decided to go to medical school at age 36. After graduating in 1994, he started working in family practice and spent his vacations going on mission trips to Africa. He has a wife and four kids.
Not only does he treat his patients, he also gives medicine for free and prays with them. If one of his patients doesn’t have any money to buy medicine, he pays for it; and as a result, he gets very little money just enough for his family. Dr. Bob survives only on donations, and when he receives money from it, he usually puts it back into his practice to continue giving free medicine to his patients. A trait of a truly great man.
Dr. Gino Strada (Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq)
Sudan is one of those African countries who are unfortunately affected by wars …The Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan is the beacon of hope in the middle of the ravaged and war-torn wasteland. The infection rates at the hospital are lower than many hospitals in the US or the UK because of the brightest doctors that work there.
One of the doctors who devotes his life working in some of the worst places on earth like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan is Dr. Gino Strada. Dr. Strada is a surgeon and heart and lung transplant specialist who treated thousands of people and has personally performed more than 30,000 surgeries. He dedicated his life to help people in countries devastated by civil wars.
Dr. Strada is Italian and is a war surgeon and founder of the UN Italian NGO Emergency. The organization has operated in thirteen war-torn countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and the Central African Republic. Emergency has treated over five million people, and in Afghanistan alone, Emergency runs four hospitals and thirty-four clinics that clean up the mess the war is causing—all without NATO’s help.
Dr. Strada negotiated with the Taliban so he could build the Salam Centre in the middle of the Sudanese desert and operate the hospital well within their front lines. He proved the people wrong when the Red Cross and NATO said that negotiating with the Taliban was impossible. At 65, most men think about retiring and doing something fun in their life; but for Dr. Strada, he wants to spend his remaining days in the operating room, saving people’s lives.
Sergio Castro (Mexico)
Considered a hero by many in Chiapas, Mexico, Sergio Castro has received numerous awards for his humanitarian and cultural work. He works every day to fill the yawning gap in health care in the state of Chiapas and has improved access to healthcare services through its universal health bill, the kind of labor-intensive care. He is known as Don Sergio around town and spends most of his time patiently cleaning and bandaging wounds that frequently become infected.
He is not a doctor nor a priest, but Castro devotes his life to healing people, without worrying about money. Don Sergio accepts no cash from his patients, he only gathers donations; and if he ever gets enough, he goes to the villages to build schools and distribute free water. At times, Castro does more personalized projects such as building a small convenience store, which he puts under the care of one of his paralyzed patients.
Dr. Denis Mukwege (Democratic Republic of Congo)
This doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo has won Europe’s top human rights prize for helping thousands of gang rape victims in the country. Fifty-nine-year-old Denis Mukwege told the BBC that he aims to make rape survivors in DR Congo “feel they are not alone.”
Dr. Mukwege treated patients using barely minimum of resources smack dab in the middle of a raging war in Congo, and when the hospital that he works for was raided and destroyed, he had to flee and start from scratch.
In 1999, Dr. Mukwege took in a rape victim with bullet wounds in her genitals and thighs. Three months later, forty-five more women came in with the same story. To this day, Dr. Mukwege has helped some 30,000 women using a four-stage approach, which includes psychological support, surgical care, socio-economic support, and legal assistance.
The war in Congo is not really a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, it’s more along the lines of a conflict of economic interests. It is being waged against Congolese women, supported by major international corporations that hold an interest in its outcome.
Abdul Sattar Edhi (Pakistan)
Abdul Sattar Edhi, 82, gave up everything to help Pakistan’s poorest. Wearing a Jinnah cap, with an all-blue getup, and sporting a long silvery beard, the 85-year-old philanthropist looks more like a Taliban warlord than the most respected man in Pakistan. Because of the way he looks, Abdul Sattar Edhi has been stopped and interrogated several times at airports.
In the early 1950s, Abdul Sattar Edhi dropped out of school and began selling toys and food on the streets. After some time, he sold his little business for 5,000 rupees, which he used to buy a battered old van that he converted into his first ambulance. Donations started pouring in when some people noticed Edhi’s way of helping people.
He founded the Edhi Foundation, which became Pakistan’s largest welfare organization with over 300 centers that provide medical aid, family planning, and emergency assistance. Edhi himself doesn’t receive a salary despite the foundation’s immense growth.
The Edhi Foundation has rehabilitated over three millions children, delivered about one million babies, provided shelter to 50,000 orphans, gave training to 40,000 nurses, and saved 20,000 infants.
Dr. Tom Catena (Sudan)
Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary doctor from the United States, is the only trained surgeon in the rebel-held part of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Civilians were mass executed and buried in eight mass graves around the region. Despite the dangerous attacks that started in June 2o11 placing Sudan in a state of chaos, Dr. Catena decided to stay. He fears that the Nuba mountains will eventually become a second Darfur if air strikes and massacres continue under Omar Al-Bashir, the president of Sudan.
As the only qualified surgeon at the sole hospital in Nuba, Dr. Tom saw hundreds of patients a day. Almost overnight, the hospital went from doing elective surgeries to doing trauma surgery in the middle of a war zone. The worst were the bombing casualties. Antonov bombs are dropped from converted cargo planes every week by the Arab-centric regime in Khartoum to impose authority over the non-Muslims and non-Arabs, who the Arabs consider second-class citizens.
Dr. Georges Bwelle (Cameroon)
According to the World Health Organization, the doctor-to-patient ratio in Cameroon has risen to one doctor for every 5,000 people; but because two out of five Cameroonians live below the poverty line, many still can’t afford to be seen by a physician. Patients come in as early as five in the morning and still had to wait for hours to be seen, and some even died while waiting.
When the hospitals around Cameroon were ill-equipped, overcrowded, and understaffed, Dr. Georges Bwelle, a general surgeon at the central hospital in Cameroon’s capital, assembled a team of medical volunteers, bought medications, equipment, and surgical supplies to conduct weekend missions throughout the dry season.
Dr. Bwelled tries his best to cover up for the gap and lessen the consequence of the problem.
Dr. Tan Lai Yong (Yunnan Province, China)
Meet Dr. Tan Lai Yong, Singapore’s barefoot doctor who moved to rural Yunnan, China, together with his wife,Tan Lay Chin, and then year-old daughter, Amber Tan, to fulfill a calling. Dr. Tan joined a community development team in Yunnan and worked with poor villages, orphans, and the disabled for the past fifteen years.
He trained over 500 village doctors to draw up management plans and handle prescriptions. Partnering with local hospitals, Dr. Tan helped build up their own capabilities and had them perform ten to fifteen surgeries daily as opposed to doing only four like they were used to. He created innovative ways to teach health and hygiene to the different ethnic minorities and provided basic medical training to the farmers.
Dr. Jill Seaman (Sudan)
The government in Khartoum banned all international agencies, as the epidemic in the city began to spread. But the Dutch branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres stayed and deployed a team headed by Dr. Jill Seaman. Named a “Hero of Medicine” by Time in 1997, this iron-willed young American woman from Moscow, Idaho, has been providing public health to Yupick Eskimos in the Alaskan bush.
In surrounding villages of Leer where the entire population had died, cows wandered unattended, and survivors were so emaciated they could barely stand, the team sets up operations in the village. The epidemic was kala-azar, a form of the disease leishmaniasis marked by emaciation, anemia, fever, and enlargement of the liver, and spleen. The disease decimated the population of East India in the nineteenth century.
In between bombings of their Leer facility, Dr. Seaman and her colleagues worked tirelessly. In the seven years they served, Dr. Seaman and the MSF staff treated 19,000 patients.
Dr. Catalin Cristoveanu (Romania)
Romania is a country riddled with corruption, especially in the medical sector. In a country where most medical personnel won’t help a sick infant unless they’re bribed, Dr. Catalin Cirstoveanu has made it his mission to take it upon himself to fly sick children to Germany, Austria, or Italy to be treated by doctors who don’t demand bribes. He buys tickets on cheap flights to Western Europe, and with a baby in his arms and life-sustaining equipment in tow, he ferries sick infants to hospitals outside of Romania where they will be treated. This is one of the reasons Romania’s infant mortality rate is more than double that of the European Union.
In 2005, the sum of bribes across Romania was estimated to be $1 million per day. Dr. Cirstoveanu implemented a zero-tolerance policy to corruption in the Marie Curie Hospital, which in itself suffered from unwanted consequences. He continues to fight for the children who come to him for care. He is more than a hero to these children and their family.