Medical student, Schweitzer fellow to speak at Carter Center in Atlanta

Benjamin Gilmer checks in on a baby born with HIV in the pediatric ward of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. He described the little girl as "smiling at every opportunity." Contributed photo
GREENVILLE, N.C.  (Mar. 9, 2006)  —  An East Carolina University medical student will discuss his experiences working at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Africa during a presentation Saturday, March 11 at The Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta.

From speaking French to hiking through rain forests to treating children with tropical disease, fourth-year medical student Benjamin Gilmer experienced all he hoped for and more during the three months he spent in 2004 working in the hospital in Gabon, Africa, that humanitarian and physician Albert Schweitzer established in 1913. Diseases largely eliminated in the industrialized world are common there.

Gilmer will present, "Reverence for Life in Africa and the U.S.: The Legacy of Albert Schweitzer Today," along with Dr. Lachlan Forrow, president of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The program will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Carter Center and is sponsored by the North Decatur Presbyterian Church Missions committee.

A native of Charlotte, Gilmer was North Carolina's only Albert Schweitzer Lambaréné Fellowship recipient for 2004, and he is the first from the Brody School of Medicine to be selected. He is the only the second medical student from North Carolina to be selected for the Lambaréné Fellowship since its inception in 1978. He was also a North Carolina Schweitzer Fellow for the 2002-2003 academic year.

"The event on Saturday is the culmination of a year-long fundraising effort to raise both funds and awareness for the Schweitzer Hospital," Gilmer said. "Through the aid of Phillips Inc. and Promedical Inc., I will accompany our newly procured ultrasound machine to Gabon in three weeks. At that time, I will try to reassess some other needs of the hospital and use our money to ship other supplies, such as neonatal incubators, syringes, an EKG machine, pulse oximeters and baby formula for infants with HIV-positive mothers.

"The Carter Center is a wonderful place to express this mission and the greater mission of Dr. Schweitzer, which was 'reverence for life' and peace," Gilmer said.

Dr. Joseph Zanga, assistant dean for generalist programs at the medical school, said Gilmer's work is reflective of the dedication of many ECU medical students. "Benjamin Gilmer is quite typical of our students at the Brody School of Medicine," Zanga said. "To a person, they all want to serve. Benjamin, however, decided to learn more about service and so went to Africa to work with the people of Gabon at the Schweitzer Hospital. He did help them, and they helped him, too, to decide to become a family physician and to spend his career serving the underserved. Needless to say, we are very proud of him," said Zanga, who is also professor of pediatrics and the Jefferson-Pilot-Catherine and Max Ray Joyner Distinguished Professor in Primary Care.

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship selects four third-year medical students to spend three and one-half months working as fellows at the hospital on clinical rotations. They work as junior physicians, supervised by hospital medical staff including six physicians, and are eligible for rotations in pediatrics, medicine and surgery. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship provides airfare, room, board and immunizations for the fellows.

Nestled on the banks of the Ogooué River in a tropical rain forest in western Gabon, the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, or L'Hopital du Docteur Albert Schweitzer as it is called in French-speaking Gabon, is the primary health care provider for the surrounding region. Today, an international staff of Gabonese and expatriate professionals provide skilled care through more than 35,000 outpatient visits and more than 6,000 hospitalizations annually for patients from all part of Gabon, an independent republic with a population of approximately 1.3 million. Schweitzer Lambaréné Fellows are expected to be orally competent in French. Gilm

Contact: Jeannine Manning Hutson | 252-744-2481