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How One Woman Saves Lives With Tape and String

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Dr. Mulualem Gessesse is a doctor, a visionary, and a powerful role model. Centering her work in Ethiopia, she has set a new standard for neonatal care in the third world, and offered hope and life to countless new mothers and their babies.

Since beginning her practice in Ethiopia, the infant mortality rate has been cut nearly in half. To speak to just how influential Dr. Gessesse was in this process, it is important to note that she was just one of seven neonatologists working in the country of 90 million during this time. This is one of the poorest nations in the world, where many live without heat, electricity or even running water.

Even more impressive is the “never give up” attitude of Dr. Gessesse, and her ability to improvise and work with the tools she has access to. She has been called a modern medical “MacGyver” (after the popular television show character) for her ability to fashion life saving devices out of string, tape and other available materials.

For instance, in an area without a CPap machine (used to keep the lungs of premature babies inflated) rather than concede to a loss of life due to shoddy equipment, Dr. Gessesse created her own ad hoc CPap from an oxygen tank, some water, tubing and tape.

This ability to think outside the box, and challenge herself to solve problems rather than complain about a lack of resources, teaches a valuable lesson. The stakes are very high when caring for sick babies, and the amazing dedication, talent and ingenuity displayed by Dr. Gessesse shows us that amazing things are possible when we put our minds to it.

In addition to Dr. Gessesse herself, several organizations are contributing to the medical revolution in Ethiopia. Among them are two standouts: The Gates Foundation and Save the Children. These life saving charities have contributed time, resources and bodies to help make a real difference in the medical treatment of those in Ethiopia. Visit their sites to learn more about the outstanding work these charities do every day.

We encourage you to watch this incredible video of Dr. Gessesse, to see her in action and learn more about her incredible work:

As Dr. Gessesse so eloquently puts it “I have many children. Only two biological, but many children.” She sees the children she cares for as her own, and feels a responsibility for their care. We would all do well to feel this sort of kinship with others, even when they live a world apart from us. We hope we can all learn from the powerful example of Dr. Gessesse. We all need to be as strong as this remarkable doctor, and increase our awareness of issues across the world.

Enhance your discussion of this article by also reading our past piece, “Dr. Mark Levie brings experience (and family) to Rwanda.”

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