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Hopkins Reader

Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums

Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., Ellen Vaughn Thomas Nelson (2015)

Martin “Marty” Makary’s 2012 book, Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, was a passionate, blistering account of patient safety failures in U.S. hospitals. But now Makary—a professor of surgery who directs the Johns Hopkins Multidisciplinary Pancreas Clinic—has produced a book with an entirely different setting and tone.

In Mama Maggie, Makary celebrates the work of Maggie Gobran, a Coptic Christian activist who has built a network of clinics, shelters, kindergartens and vocational centers in Cairo’s poorest neighborhoods. Makary is a distant relative of Gobran’s, and he first met her during a medical mission to Egypt.

Mama Maggie, which Makary wrote in collaboration with Ellen Vaughn, traces Gobran’s decision to abandon the trappings of her affluent Cairo youth. In the late 1980s, when she was nearing the age of 40, Gobran left her job as a computer science professor and began to work full time in a vast slum on the outskirts of the city.

When Gobran first immersed herself in Cairo’s poverty, she realized the magnitude of the needless suffering there. “She already knew that many would die young of disease, neglect or violence,” Makary and Vaughn write. “There was no one to call for help.” In passages like this, it becomes clear that Mama Maggie is not so different after all from Makary’s patient safety manifesto, Unaccountable. Both books are fueled by a stubborn refusal to accept the status quo. 

Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., Ellen Vaughn

Thomas Nelson (2015)