Tuesday, February 19

AMREF celebrates 60 years and remembers Founding Director General Michael Woods

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Michael Wood would have been 100 years this year. Born on 28th Jan 1918. Having qualified as a Surgeon he and his young family moved to Kenya in 1948. He found himself called to “often remote areas outside of Nairobi” to attend to patients. He had to charter flights to attend to the emergencies and as the cases of these rose he learnt to fly! It was in 1954 when he went to England on a Marks Plastic Surgery Fellowship with Sir Archibald McIndoe and Dr Thomas Rees that they developed the idea of AMREF Health Africa and it’s Flying Doctor Service.

Michael Woods worked tirelessly fundraising for the demands of AMREF. He did this in Europe and America meeting Princes and Presidents.

It is evident in his book that Michael Woods feels compelled in saying that medical practitioners must bear the responsibility for which their medical profession demands. Providing the care where necessary “that a better, healthier life is available for the millions of poor and disease ridden people of this earth if we were only able to bring to bear the available resources which now exist… this challenge to our medical profession has to be met if we are to continue to hold our heads high and live up to the ideals which we profess and which compelled us at the start of our careers to embark on the long road of medical studies.”

Mr Woods worked closely with the Ministry of Health and indicated they (AMREF) “only undertakes projects of which they approve”.

Mr Woods is quite literally a flying Surgeon! Having learnt to fly, he piloted his aircraft to the remotest parts of Kenya performing surgeries on little children and adults, sometimes no less than 18 a day. Taking off in his aircraft he put on his Pilot’s hat and flew to his next patient.

Woods often flew to Northern Kenya provinces of Garissa, Wajir and further north, in his life-time he saw the sprouting of the Provincial Hospital.

Michael Woods life’s philosophy is also brought out in the book, he mentions sport and politics and offers his world view, which is rings through today “of course if you start training a child in one particular sport from an early age you may well get better results in the winning of cups, but the development of the other qualities in the child may well suffer in the process. This accent on professionalism and win-at-any-cost attitude has led to the ruination of modern international sport. Sport is no longer sporting. The bad manners, the wrangling, the twisting of the rules and in some sports the downright cheating; all contribute to the appalling atmosphere which surrounds many of the competitions today. The Olympics are perhaps the most obvious example of this modern trend… they are only amateur in name as there is nothing more professional than their selection, training, financial subsidizing a political drilling”. He wrote this over 30 years ago!!

His thoughts on where the western world and eastern worlds were missing the point: their departure from a spiritual life. “We have put too much hope in political and social reform only to find that we were being deprived of our most precious possession – our spiritual life”. No Turning Back was Michael Woods’s last book, published as a special anniversary edition for AMREF’s 60th Anniversary.

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