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“A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa”


Aired on Monday, May 1st.

Our guest on this edition of ST Medical Monday is Tony Bartelme. He is a senior projects reporter for the Post and Courier (of Charleston, South Carolina), and his new book is a nonfiction study called “A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa.” As was noted of this book by Kirkus Reviews: “[Here is] the story of an American brain surgeon in Tanzania and the work he has done to develop surgeons in the East African country. In 2006, Dilan Ellegala, a Sri Lanka-born American citizen and gifted neurosurgeon, took a sabbatical at a missionary hospital in Haydom, Tanzania. His plan was to clear his head, practice a bit of medicine, and perhaps figure out what he wanted from his career and life. Immediately, he understood that he had entered a completely different world. Tanzania, a country of 43 million people, had only three neurosurgeons, and other specialties were similarly lacking. Ellegala knew that he could not fill the gap himself and that relying on visiting doctors was insufficient. So he decided to teach Emmanuel Mayegga, an assistant medical officer, how to conduct brain surgery. It was a risky gambit, but it seemed to work. Within a few years, Mayegga had gone to medical school and trained a protégé, who in turn trained his own protégé. Ellegala started a nonprofit based on the principle that Tanzanians should be primarily responsible for providing medical care to their countrymen…. Bartelme, a three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist…tells the story of Ellegala and his personal and professional triumphs and struggles. The author writes fluidly and clearly admires his subject even as he acknowledges Ellegala’s flaws…. This is a fine book about a devoted doctor attempting to help Tanzanians help themselves. A highly inspirational story about sustainable global health measures.”

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