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Bergman Practices Tikkun Olam in Africa

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

At this time of year especially, we like to hear stories about how people do extraordinary things to help improve the lives of those in need and make the world a better place. We Jews call it tikkun olam, and Louisville native Kevin Bergman, M.D., and World Altering Medicine (WAM), the non-profit organization he co-founded in Africa in 2006 with his friend and fellow physician, Dan Dewey, is doing exactly that for children in Malawi, Swaziland and Uganda.

Bergman’s tie to Africa came about as the result of a month-long stay in Malawi as part of his medical school residency program. The visit opened his eyes to how so many people live with so little and must contend with health care that is sorely lacking or non-existent. He took three more trips to the area and says they helped him find his mission in medicine. The WAM works to change the world by providing medicines, medical supplies and volunteer doctors to needy hospitals and programs and services to support the communities they serve.

Since 2002, Bergman has traveled from his California home to Malawi two or three time each year and just spent a two-month sabbatical there. He plans to return with his fiancée, Sarah Greenberg, once the two conclude a trip to India, where Bergman is learning about alternative medicine. Greenberg, a psychotherapist, has opened a school to help educate the children whose medical needs they serve.

An emergency medicine physician, Bergman is grateful for a supportive boss who has allowed him to take time off to help impoverished people in Africa and Haiti. He also is grateful to his family (his mom is Mona Brodsky and dad is Richard Bergman) for helping kick-start fundraising for the WAM effort.

Several years ago, when his niece, Ariella Eisen, announced at her bat mitzvah that in lieu of gifts she wanted donations made to “Uncle Kevin’s work,” he realized they were launched. Since then, people have been taken by his dedication and have offered to help.

 

He is passionate about purchasing oxygen concentrators, devices that provide oxygen therapy to patients less expensively and more conveniently than tanks of compressed oxygen as part of the WAM’s the Breath of Life program. Bergman explains that by splitting the tubing that goes into the tanks, one concentrator can serve five children. The WAM has placed the units in 17 public hospitals and saves three to five children each month.

In addition, the WAM’s Kabudula Education and Empowerment Project provides scholarships and other services to help high school students further their education; the organization supplies emergency and support funds to the neediest patients and provides professional medical support for the 100-bed Kabudula community hospital. Other programs supported include the Tingathe Community Empowerment to End HIV/AIDS in Malawi, a government assistance project and emergency funds in Swaziland and the Tororo District Hospital Fund in Uganda.

You can check out the WAM website at www.worldalteringmedicine.org.

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