On a Mission
Date: February 1, 2013
As a missionary and surgeon in Africa, Richard Bransford ’67 has healed thousands of children over three decades, most of that time as a pediatric rehabilitation surgeon at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. Now 72, he’d like to write about his experiences, he says, but has “not yet quite found how to say” what he wishes to express. “I want to somehow, but diplomatically, help this generation realize what is really important,” he says. “I want people to see the world, out there, with a fresh perspective. I want to somehow help more people understand and cry for others in this world.”
Bransford’s extraordinary humanitarian work has earned him many accolades. He was the 2010 recipient of the American College of Surgeons/Pfizer Surgical Humanitarianism Award and the 2010 American Medical Association Foundation Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in medicine, presented in association with Pfizer, Inc. It is given to a physician who has dramatically improved health care internationally. The AMA Foundation’s president, Richard Hovland, called Bransford, “the definition of true selflessness.”
In 2011, he was named an honorary member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society, and last spring he was feted by his alma mater with a prestigious Johns Hopkins University Knowledge for the World Award.
Over the course of his career, Bransford has treated youngsters for a wide range of conditions—from burn contractures, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida to cleft lip and cleft palate, club feet, polio, hypospadias, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophies. Working with AIM International, a mission organization whose focus primarily is in Africa, he also has provided surgical care during disasters and crises elsewhere on that continent, including in Rwanda, Somalia, southern Sudan, and Zaire.
In 1998, Bransford founded the Bethany Crippled Children’s Center. Located adjacent to Kijabe Hospital, the 36-bed facility has worked with its primary sponsoring agency, Bethany Relief and Rehabilitation International, which Bransford also helped to found, to develop mobile health clinics throughout Kenya, as well as to train pediatric nurses and refugees who are orthopedic technicians. In 2004, Bransford also co-founded BethanyKids at Kijabe Hospital, now a 69-bed facility that has become known widely in Africa as a referral center for disabled children and is supported by a network of 14 outreach clinics across Kenya.
Bransford and his wife, Millie, “retired” to Boone, N.C., in 2011, but he continues to return to Africa about five times a year to treat disabled youngsters. NAG