One of the jewels of Karatu is the Foundation for African Medicine & Education (or FAME). It is a clinic situated in the hills above Karatu. FAME was started by Dr. Frank Artress and his wife, Susan Gustafson, in 2008. The story is that Frank, an anesthesiologist from Modesto, and Susan came to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. (Climbing the mountain is what brings many people to Tanzania the first time). On the way up, “Dr. Frank” developed pulmonary edema and nearly died. He was brought down and taken to Arusha, a city close to Kilimanjaro, where doctors were able to save him.
After that experience, Frank and Susan went home to Modesto, sold everything, and came back to Tanzania. Dr. Frank spent two years re-training in primary care in Arusha. Then he started a clinic in Karatu that is now called FAME.
In 2013, we had the good fortune of visiting FAME and learning about its services. At that time, there were five Tanzanian doctors, in addition to Dr. Artress, and Susan was doing the grant writing. There was a building that was planned for an operating room and an emergency room, but there were no supplies or equipment for those procedures. All of us were tremendously impressed with FAME, and we were determined to go back if we ever got to Tanzania again.
Brian and I walked to FAME today – a distance of about 5 km. – which is gently uphill in an area that looks like the Tuscan countryside. Pauline, the volunteer coordinator, showed us around. As was the case with Tumaini, a lot of construction has occurred at FAME, so the facilities are much larger. A new administration building was dedicated in December 2015. Another new building – a radiology center – will open as soon as a dedicated generator arrives from France and is installed. One part of the hospital area is set aside for maternity care. It has been open for about two years, and to date, there have been no maternal deaths at FAME. The clinic is doing outreach with traditional birthing attendants (TBAs) to encourage them to bring their clients to FAME to deliver. It was interesting to learn that in general, it is not possible to give the TBAs additional training to deal with complications of pregnancy and birth because the TBAs do not have medical education to begin with, FAME has resolved the issue by encouraging the TBAs to take their clients to FAME to deliver, and allowing the TBAs to remain with the woman during delivery. That compromise, they believe, will lead to an increase in safe births. FAME is hoping to raise money for a specific maternity building, along with a place where a mother who has begun contractions but is not yet ready to deliver can stay until the baby makes its entrance. Now, if contractions have begun but the woman is not yet ready to deliver, and she is sent home, usually the woman will not return to FAME when her contractions increase.
There are approximately 110 staff members at FAME; among them are ten Tanzanian doctors in addition to Dr. Artress. Although we had met him before, we were disappointed not to see Dr. Artress today. He was off in the Tarangire area for two days doing a mobile clinic. We learned that Pauline, the volunteer coordinator, is here for a year. She is from France, and has lived in the U.S. and in South Africa, so her English has an unusual accent – mildly Australian though probably South African.
Having missed our usual lunch at Tumaini, Brian and I had lunch at the restaurant associated with the clinic. There we met Denis, a man from the town of Kilimanjaro, who is both an architect and a painter. He was responsible for the lively, animated paintings of giraffes and elephants we had seen hanging in the maternity wing of FAME. He had more paintings for sale in the restaurant, and I snapped up one of a Maasai man walking.