When Paul Thistle, former chief medical officer of the Howard Hospital in rural Zimbabwe, was transferred on short notice, his patients made a simple yet powerful statement, “We want our doctor back.”
Photojournalist Douglas MacLellan and Dr. Thistle, holder of a 2008 UWindsor honorary doctor of laws degree, bring this call to the Windsor Star News Café, 300 Ouellette Ave., from June 15 to 20 with a photo exhibition of the same name.
After 18 years serving at the Salvation Army Howard Hospital as a volunteer obstetrician and gynecologist, Thistle was transferred for unspecified reasons, to a new position at the Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe, leaving thousands of patients with no surgeon.
The doctor says the photo display tells the story of a rural African community losing their only surgeon.
“They were concerned about the lower level of healthcare they will receive. There are only two or three doctors serving a population of a quarter million people in Zimbabwe - serving 100 000 patient visits and about 4,000 operations per year,” says Thistle. “So if you remove one doctor, the impact is great.”
MacLellan, who began photographing the doctor’s work in Zimbabwe in 2001, approached the country’s at-risk patients in the Howard Hospital catchment area and photographed the series of patient portraits.
Through this event, the partners hope to raise awareness in Canada of the ongoing, hidden suffering of people in rural Africa.
“You may not be able to change the world, but you can make a difference to an individual, a family or a community,” Thistle says.
“Sometimes you can’t calculate the ripple effect of the good that you do.”
The physician says he will address the reality of unaffordable health care in Zimbabwe and loss of human life during an open reception at the Windsor Star News Café, Wednesday June 17, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Donations to assist at-risk patients will be gratefully accepted at the reception and charitable receipts will be available.