A Ugandan woman became the first African-born doctor to receive Africa Mission Healthcare’s $500,000 L’Chaim Prize, one of the most prominent awards in the medical missionary field, to support her work in pregnancy care.
The first Catholic, woman and African to receive the prize, Dr. Sister Priscilla Busingye is the president of the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Uganda and a member of the Catholic Banyatereza Sisters of Uganda. She's only one of few OB-GYN specialists in her region.
“Knowing that I meet God in every patient gives me great joy,” Busingye said.
Busingye received the prize, which is reportedly the world’s largest award dedicated to direct patient care, because African Mission Healthcare determined she could help the most people with it, said Dr. John Fielder, its co-founder and chief executive.
Busingye grew up in an impoverished Ugandan village without access to a doctor, medical equipment or electricity. To attend school as a teenager, she walked 14 miles each way. She learned medicine from the Banyatereza Sisters and devoted her life to serving Uganda’s poor.
One defining moment in her life came when she was unable to help a mother in distress.
“Lord, give me the opportunity and I will never get tired of helping women,” she promised God at the time.
The funds will help Busingye to improve healthcare in Uganda by sponsoring training, establishing new approaches for community outreach and engagement, and transforming the Rwibaale Clinic into a “center of excellence” for maternal and childcare, Fielder said. The money will allow the clinic to deliver over 1,000 babies each year, provide primary care for 5,100 families in need and train medical personnel to improve healthcare throughout southwestern Uganda.
“Sister Busingye and her team of mentors will visit other hospitals in Uganda and help to expand them,” he added. “It’s very important to have a center of excellence that people can look at and say ‘that’s the way it should be done.’”
Fielder runs African Mission Healthcare with cofounder and prize sponsor Mark Gerson. The pair met as roommates in college, both said in an interview with The Christian Post.
The L’Chaim project’s name is Hebrew for “to life,” Gerson, who is Jewish, said.
“It tells us in the Bible 36 times that we’re commanded to love the stranger. The most profound way to love the stranger is to save their life. That’s the most important and highest thing you can do for someone else,” said Gerson. “It’s all about saving lives.”
Gerson and Fielder work to give money in ways that create a lasting impact for good. By giving money to local partners, they try to create institutions that can respond to any crisis rather than putting hasty patches on problems, Fielder said. As someone who worked as a missionary doctor in Africa, Fielder knows the consequences of unwise charitable giving.
“If you’re going to build an entire system prepared to deal with a lot of different problems, you need to listen to the people on the ground. Donors don’t ask about housing problems for medical staff, which are very much needed. If you don’t listen to a group on the ground, you don’t learn that,” he said.
The L’Chaim Prize goes to long-term Christian missionaries because they best build medical infrastructure in Africa to serve the poor, Gerson said. Money donated to Africa also goes further in saving lives because healthcare costs less there. However, local people often are too poor to buy it.
“The per capita income where this health center is located is $250 per person,” Fielder said. “Healthcare is very cheap in Uganda compared to the U.S., but very expensive for people earning less than $300 a year. We have good contractors, [so] surgeries cost only a couple hundred dollars to do. In Uganda, repairing a fistula costs about $200 to repair. In the U.S., you could pay a couple hundred dollars per stitch for the same thing.”