Halfway there: A Tanzanian medical student’s journey

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By Dr. Tim Millea

Spring has arrived with its bright colors and longer sunshine day by day. It seems likely that we are emerging from the pandemic, albeit slowly and cautiously. Whether it is a dark, cold winter or a worldwide virus, the moment a “light at the end of the tunnel” is seen is important and inspiring. This also applies to personal endeavors in our lives. When we are halfway to our goal, when half the battle is behind us, we can then push on to the finish line. This is particularly true in long and demanding educational efforts, such as the four years of medical school in which our Tanzanian friend, Edmund, is engaged.

Edmund

Nearly a year ago, in a Catholic Messenger column, I introduced Edmund to readers on behalf of the St. Thomas Aquinas Guild, a Quad-City group affiliated with the national Catholic Medical Association. Our guild helps fund Edmund’s medical school studies. Among our members are physicians, nurses, psychologists and many other health care professionals, as well as priests, religious and laypeople interested in medical ethics based on Catholic teaching.

For several years, our diocese was blessed with the presence of Father Fortunatus Rwehikiza, a Tanzanian priest doing graduate study at St. Ambrose University. Prior to that, Edmund was one of Father Fortunatus’ brightest students in his Catholic school classroom in rural northwestern Tanzania.

After a year of discernment in the seminary, Edmund determined he has a vocation to be a physician. A Catholic medical school in Mwanza quickly accepted his application. However, his financial resources were minimal. He and his small family could not afford to pay the tuition and other costs. With two weeks before his classes would start, Edmund mentioned his disappointment to Father Fortunatus.

The priest brought Edmund’s plight to our attention, and we submitted an email request to our guild members seeking help. Within 24 hours, they and other generous donors provided enough funding for Edmund’s entire first year of medical school. In Tanzania, the annual tuition for medical school is approximately $2,200, which is a fraction of the cost in this country. Our ongoing financial support has been the light at the end of the tunnel for Edmund as he continues his journey through medical school.

Due to a COVID-related delay in his curriculum, Edmund’s medical school was disrupted near the end of his first year, with a delay beginning year two. He has just started the second semester of his second year. When his semester examinations are finished in a few months, he will be at his halfway point. Even with pandemic concerns here in the U.S., Edmund’s supporters have consistently donated to keep his dream alive.

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Throughout our contact with Edmund, he has consistently impressed us with his humility and sincere gratitude. He is a very intelligent young man, and a talented singer and organist. He is faith-filled and in his emails always reminds us that we are in his prayers daily. He is beginning to consider a specialty area for his training beyond medical school. Regardless of his choice, we are confident that his fellow Tanzanians will benefit from a physician who will truly imitate Jesus Christ in his healing work. Edmund will be an example of a devoted Catholic health care professional, treating both physical and spiritual needs. We are blessed to have the opportunity to help him bring his God-given talents and deep faith to his future patients.

Edmund will have two more full years of medical school after this semester. If you would like to help him achieve his dream, you may make a donation by check to “The Fortunatus Fund” and mailed to The Fortunatus Fund, 2939 East 44th Court, Davenport, IA 52807.

(Dr. Tim Millea is president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Medical Guild and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.)


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