Several months ago, Jason and I had breakfast with Dr. Andy Haig, spine specialist at UofM and all-around nice guy. I think that the forecast inside his mind is a constant brainstorm, which makes him a very interesting person to share a meal and a conversation with. We previously told a bit about his involvement in Ghana and Liberia. In addition to learning about these projects, talking with Dr. Haig was great because he was very optimistic about our work, and was excited to be a liason between us and the University in the future.
At one point, his eyes lit up in an obvious epiphany, and he exclaimed "The Mayo Clinic!" There was, of course, a moment of puzzlement on our faces, but he quickly elaborated. "You guys are the Mayo Clinic!" For those who are not in medicine or have never picked up a Reader's Digest, the Mayo Clinic is a gigantic medical center, arguably the best in the U.S. It is also in Rochester, Minnesota, a small town south of the Twin Cities with not a lot in the way of civic excitment and weather that people only write home about in order to brag about personal pain. And yet they have managed to bring together the best in the field, professionals who could have lived anywhere.
We have an interest in the bush. We are also very open to living in a city, if that seems the best place to serve, but our hearts are in the bush. This brings up a big question about brain drain. Most professionals in Africa depart the continent for better employment options. Those who stay often go to other countries within Africa, and those who stay in Africa congregate in the cities. Why? For most of the same reasons as in the US: better pay, more cosmopolitan life, better access to the rest of the world. Dr. Haig's very interesting connection is that we should be paying attention to the Mayo Clinic, for maybe we can learn how they went against the forces of nature and provided rural Minnesota with premier health care.
Ideas? He suggested investing in civic life: bring in a pro football (soccer) team; hire a national painter to use your landscapes as his/her subject matter; pursue other forms of professional industry to create jobs for other non-medical professionals. Or my favorite, Jason's subsequent idea: enlist elite US runners Ryan and Sara Hall to move to Africa (land of some serious marathon enthusiasm) and start a running school/orphanage.