Gail Wagner, MD
“Sometimes things happen serendipitously. You can make all the plans you want, and sometimes what you end up doing has no relation to the plans you’ve made.”
In 2004, Dr. Wagner and seven TPMG colleagues made a humanitarian journey to Ugenya — an underserved area in western Kenya where 30% to 40% of the population is infected with HIV, and many suffer from TB, malaria, worms and other tropical diseases.
Responding to a request from Dan Ogola, a Kenyan friend of Dr. Wagner’s daughter, they conducted 10 free clinics and saw 5,000 patients. The experience was so rewarding that they decided to return, and Matibabu Foundation was born. (Matibabu means “treatment” in Swahili.) Dr. Wagner makes yearly visits to Kenya, and Matibabu has attracted a growing number of volunteers, most from TPMG, who make the journey to perform surgery, do training and care for patients.
“It has created a special kind of camaraderie among the Matibabu volunteers,” says Dr. Wagner. “It also has made us better physicians: it reminds us of what medicine is supposed to be about, which is caring for people who are suffering.”
Matibabu now has two full-time clinics operated by a Kenyan physician and three nurses, as well as AIDS counselors, lab technicians and a pharmacist. The foundation, funded primarily by Dr. Wagner and her friends, also sponsors de-worming and malaria projects, and there are plans to build a hospital. In December 2007, Matibabu Foundation received a $1.5 million grant from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to use over three years to fund their AIDS programs.