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People Making A Difference: Long Beach Man Moves To Tanzania To Support Nonprofit Hospital

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Driven by a desire to give back to the medical profession, a Long Beach man uprooted his life to move to rural Tanzania to help a nonprofit hospital spread its message even further.

Robert Kovacs
Robert Kovacs left his Long Beach home for rural Tanzania to help a nonprofit hospital. (CBSLA)

That man, Robert Kovacs, runs communications for the Foundation for African Medicine and Education — an organization that ensures members of the Karatu community have access to quality affordable healthcare.

"I've always been interested in doing work that helps other people," Kovacs said.

In his role, Kovacs runs the social media campaign that helps with fundraising that enables the hospital to treat more than 28,000 patients per year.

Patients Waiting At FAME Africa
Patients wait to be seen at FAME Africa Hospital in Karatu, Tanzania. (CBSLA)

"Working here has been really rewarding," Kovacs said. "For me, it's a way of giving back."

Kovacs said his own experience seeking emergency medical care inspired him to work at the remote hospital.

"I got in a bicycle accident, and I ended up losing the third bone in my middle finger," he said. "I nearly passed out from blood loss before I got to Memorial Hospital, and that was only like a 15 minute, 10 minute drive."

In Karatu, patients often travel via taxi or on foot to see doctors and have routine tests done.

"Before FAME was established here, there were three doctors for a population of 220,000 people," Kovacs said.

FAME Africa Campus
FAME Africa Hospital treats more than 28,000 patients per year. (CBSLA)

First opened as an outpatient clinic in 2008 by Dr. Frank Artress and his wife Susan Gustafson, both of California, the hospital has grown to offer CT scans and x-rays — both uncommon in rural Tanzania — and employs 159 locals.

"I consider FAME as home," Dr. Anne Ghati said. "FAME is where my heart is."

Kovacs lives in volunteer housing at FAME and said he was slowly learning Swahili, the local language.

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