(WASHINGTON, June 10, 2011) – A historic gathering of health care experts, medical practitioners, university officials, government leaders, and diplomats held at Blair House in Washington, D.C., on June 10, was the setting for the announcement of an initiative that, in the words of one participant, “has importance not just for the people of Gabon, but also for the people of the United States -- and possibly even for people around the world.”
The occasion was the announcement of the planned Albert Schweitzer University Hospital Center of Lambarene (known in French as “Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Albert Schweitzer de Lambaréné”), a joint project of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Lambaréné, Gabon (HAS); Hôpital Regional of Lambaréné Georges Rawiri (HRL); Medical Research Unit, HAS and University of Tübingen (MRU); National Ministry of Health of Gabon; and the Office of the President of Gabon.
The mission of this Center will be “to unite science, clinical care, public health, and training through an integrated approach to health that is a model of international collaboration, and a resource for the nation of Gabon and for Africa,” according to Dr. Lachlan Forrow, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and president of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital.
In remarks at Blair House, His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic, noted that
“For my country to end this tragic cycle of preventable disease and disability, we have decided that there is no better place to make rapid progress than in the Lambaréné Region, home to the Schweitzer Hospital, and its Medical Research Unit, one of the leading scientific and research training sites in all of Africa. We intend to show by example how people can solve these problems. Once we have done that in the Lambaréné Region, we intend to replicate those successes in other regions of our country.”
The President added:
“We believe that within the next several years Gabon can be on an irreversible track toward better health for all of our people, with the many human, social, and economic benefits that experts like Professor Jeffrey Sachs have shown will ensue. We hope that these successes will help inspire others in Africa to achieve the same benefits for their own people.”
President Bongo also announced that his government has committed US$1 million for the project, while international collaborators will donate an additional US$1 million in matching funds. He praised the project as an example of public-private cooperation.
Activities of the Center will include:
· Rigorous scientific monitoring and evaluation of the primary health problems of the region, including TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and maternal/child health
· Implementation of proven “best practices” in Africa for clinical care, public health, financial management and oversight, continuous quality improvement, and engagement of the population
· Development and scientific evaluation of new technologies supporting cost-effective community-based health care in Africa
· Scientific research and training, including basic science, epidemiology, and clinical trials
· Clinical and public health training for health care workers from throughout Gabon and Africa, including both on-site education and state-of-the-art web-based “distance learning”
The timeline for the Center envisions a full opening in April 2013, timed to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of Albert Schweitzer’s medical mission in Lambaréné, a lifetime commitment that led to his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1952.