[by Earl Blacklock] For many of us, the knowledge that we have saved a life would embolden us and encourage us for life.
Imagine saving dozens of lives. Or hundreds. Or thousands. Or tens of thousands.
Now imagine being personally responsible for saving millions of lives. One man, Dr. Robert Hingson, did just that.
Dr. Hingson was Professor of anesthesiology at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He pursued medicine as a way to tangibly reflect his Christian values and beliefs. He knew he wanted to save lives – not one at a time, but hundreds of thousands at a time.
Hingson knew the best path to accomplishing his goal was through vaccination. As a boy, his family doctor had given him a book on William Crawford Gorgas who had led the effort to rid the Panama Canal Zone of malaria and yellow fever. He wanted to make a similar difference in ridding the world of preventable illnesses that killed millions each year.
His method for doing so occurred to him when, as an intern, he treated a seamen for a swollen hand that had been injected with machine oil from a leak in a high pressure pipe. Working with Dr. F.H.J. Figge, a professor at the University of Maryland, he developed and fine-tuned a jet injector gun that could give thousands of injections at a time. He then took the technology on the road, setting up teams of doctors to inoculate people around the world.
He started in 1962 in Liberia, which was undergoing an epidemic of smallpox. The small African country was ideal for testing the new technology, with its one million people and compact size. The “guns of mercy” were a huge success, resulting in a drop in the following years to only a few cases.
By 1967, 25 million worldwide had been vaccinated against smallpox, but two million more died from the dread disease. Millions more were added each year to the number vaccinated until, in 1979, the disease was declared eradicated.
In 1964, a foundation was set up to continue Dr. Hingson’s work. Originally called “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, the name was changed to “Brother’s Brother Foundation” after protests from one Nigerian that a Keeper wasn’t what was needed, but rather a brother. Dr. Hingson was certainly that Brother, and what he established has made a difference in the lives of tens of millions of people around the world.
According to its website (brothersbrother.org), in the past more than half century, Brothers Brother Foundation has provided over $4 billion of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, food, seeds, and other humanitarian supplies to people in 146 countries around the world. In 2014, it furnished supplies for 270 medical and humanitarian mission trips. And 99.6% of the contributions it receives end up benefiting the people it serves in dozens of countries around the world.
But it all began with the desire of one godly man to make a difference in his world – to serve his Master with all of his knowledge, skills, and energy.