I first met Dr Bill Fryda in 1994 when I worked with him and lived in the compound of Nazareth Hospital just outside Nairobi Kenya. During my three months there, I came to know one of the most unique and impressive people I have ever come across. I profiled Father Fryda in Awakening Hippocrates, and count myself among his many admirers.
Father Fryda was born in the plains of Nebraska (Dances With Wolves country, he says). He became a Catholic priest and then a Mayo Clinic trained oncologist. Upon completion of his medical residency he faced a choice: either become the regional expert on blood disorders, or pursue something far different, as his idol Albert Schweitzer had many years earlier. Dr Fryda chose the latter. He traveled to Tanzania and later to Kenya, where he has spent most of his adult life, serving as both a Maryknoll (Catholic) priest, and physician/ administrator.
Having worked with him closely, he has outstanding clinical and surgical skills (he became a self taught obstetrician, general surgeon and urologist-- "the Prostate Padre"-- and later built a model health facility near the grounds of the Karen Blixen plantation (of Out of Africa fame) near Wilson Airport just outside Nairobi, Kenya, and right next to one of the world's largest slums, Kibera Slum.
Father Fryda and a talented local Kenyan staff have built St Mary's Mission Hospitals in Nairobi, and Nakuru, Rift Valley, into two very large hospitals that treat the poor slum dwellers of Kibera and surrounding areas with high quality, low cost, comprehensive care.
During a visit to St Mary's in 2001, Father Fryda led the staff in prayer at the start of a work day in the hospital. "Lord, let us see your face in the faces of all who come through these doors today." Matthew: 25 lived out in real life. Father Fryda inspires and empowers the staff at St Mary's. His vision of affordable high quality Catholic health care delivered with respect in a beautiful setting has become a reality twice over in both hospitals.
Omni Med is proud of our history with St Mary's. During the first decade of 2000, Omni Med shipped close to $1 million worth of medical supplies to St Mary's, often carried over by visiting volunteers. Johnson and Johnson donated high cost sutures, and Dr Roger Mitty of St Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston donated thousands of dollars of endoscopes, colonoscopes in such demand in East Africa, where schistosomiasis produces bleeding esophageal varices (swollen vessels) in old and young alike. Dr George Barrett of Milton Hospital made a key connection to a company that donated a full GI suite, worth close to $10,000, to St Marys.
Drs Edwyn Wyman and Tom Antokwiak came through Omni Med to help offload some of St Mary's high demand for orthopedic care. Dr Antkowiak returned to St Mary's several times. In time, however, Father Fryda has built both St Mary's hospitals into fully self-sufficient models. Omni Med no longer has a direct relationship, though all are encouraged to support Father Dr Fryda, a living legacy of Albert Schweitzer, and St Mary's Mission Hospitals in Nairobi and Nakuru.
St Mary's Nairobi offers a welcome respite from the harsh conditions of the Kibera Slum directly across from the entrance. The top photo below was taken from St Mary's water tower. Pictured, below, Father, Dr Bill Fryda.
Dr Edwin Wyman, MGH orthopedic surgeon, assisting a young Kenyan colleague in treating a young orphan from Kibera.
Father Bill Fryda, MD, an American icon and an inspirational figure to many.