Dr. Glen Brubaker lives on the same Pennsylvania farm where he grew up, but ask him where home is and he will say Tanzania.
The 61-year-old Mennonite medical missionary has devoted nearly 30 years to helping Tanzanians battle disease. At Shirati Hospital near Lake Victoria, he practiced medicine, educated his patients on disease control and conducted research.
"In Africa, a doctor has to do everything," he said.
He helped to nearly eradicate leprosy from Tanzania and developed a treatment for Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare, fatal disease whose victims are most often children living in areas prone to malaria.
Now, from the offices of Interchurch Medical Assistance Inc., in New Windsor, Brubaker is directing a treatment program that is saving hundreds of Tanzanian children from the devastating effects of Burkitt's lymphoma, or BL, which usually manifests itself as a cancerous tumor of the jaw, face or eye.
"Even the treatment is painful, but I have had little children put out their hands for an injection," Brubaker said. "Even one dose and the tumor is gone in four or five days. Without treatment, the child would die within weeks."
His files include hundreds of before-and-after photographs of children whose tumors disappeared within days of treatment. The United Service Foundation, established by a Lancaster Mennonite family, has recognized the work and awarded a five-year $178,000 grant to help set up treatment centers in hospitals throughout the East African country of about 25 million.
"The United Service Foundation sees this BL project as an exciting opportunity to partner with Dr. Brubaker and IMA in meeting the urgent needs of children and families by putting a cost-effective and easily administered treatment in the hands of Tanzanian physicians," said Greg Newswanger, foundation director.
The grant will expand the program to about 37 hospitals, train personnel in diagnostic procedures and offer free medicines and supplies. Neosar, the chemotherapeutic drug used to treat BL, will be delivered to about 700 children annually. The grant will cover the cost, which is less than $100 a child.
When only a few hospitals offered the treatment, distraught parents would often travel miles carrying their children. Brubaker knew of one mother who sold her only possession - a cooking pot - to get bus fare. She carried her child 10 miles to a river, rented a canoe and then trekked another 20 miles to the bus terminal in the city. The child was well the last time Brubaker saw him.
"We want to have many hospitals treating so families don't have to travel so far, and we want to offer free treatment," he said.
The more hospitals, the easier it will be for doctors to follow up in case of recurrence. Neosar is easy to administer, inexpensive and causes minimal side effects, Brubaker said.
A few months ago, Brubaker was traveling to remote villages throughout Tanzania trying to locate information on former BL patients. The task is a difficult one; the need to travel great distances often deters patients from returning for more treatment.
In one area, Brubaker met with three families. Children in two of the families had survived the disease. A third mother remembered how Brubaker had treated her daughter 10 years ago.
"She immediately recognized me," he said. "The first treatment had worked, but her daughter died later, within three days of a recurrence of the tumor, before they could get the child to the hospital. She told me that it was good that I tried to improve the treatment so that it will help other children in the future. `We must help each other if we are to survive,' she told me."
Helping others has been Brubaker's standard. After earning his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he volunteered to work in Tanzania with leprosy patients. While many would have shuddered, Brubaker found treating those patients for nearly all their lives rewarding.
His efforts helped to reduce the number of new leprosy patients in his area of Tanzania from 2,000 in 1965 to 50 today. The World Health Organization hopes to declare leprosy eliminated in Africa by 2005, he said.
After a stint back in the United States to earn a master's degree in public health at Harvard University, Brubaker returned to Tanzania in 1968. Through his research, Brubaker identified a link between malaria and BL and began successfully treating patients with a generic form of Neosar, which was used to fight leukemia.
Only his own health crisis in 1996 - he suffered a stroke - would take him from his home in Shirati, near the Serengeti Plain, and his research.
"It's rare to find someone as gifted in intellect and healing as Dr. Brubaker who chooses to spend his life using his gifts in a small bush hospital in Tanzania," said Paul Derstine, president of IMA, a nonprofit organization of 12 Protestant relief and development agencies.