Girl Planting seeds

A Doctor Returns Home, Saves Lives with Medical Missions in Rural Nigeria

February 15, 2012 02:40 PM
Dr. Iwuozo Obilo, a neonatologist at HackensackUMC and founder of the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, cares for a family during a recent missionary trip to Nigeria.

In 1995, Dr. Iwuozo Obilo, a pediatrician at HackensackUMC, accompanied by his family, set out on a medical missionto the villages surrounding his childhood home in Nigeria. What he witnessed was a community in desperate need of basic hygiene and medical needs.  This visit, more than 15 years ago, prompted him to make return missions – 10 of them to date – with groups of medical professionals and volunteers to set up annual two-week clinics providing care to hundreds of adults and children in need of basic amenities and medical care.

 “My first mission was very emotional, but I realized the impact it made and the bottom line is we saved lives,” explains Dr. Obilo. “These people walked from villages miles away to be treated for what we consider to be very common conditions and diseases,” explains Dr. Obilo.  “But if these conditions go untreated, they can have devastating effects. Many of these people have been living with diabetes for years because they have absolutely no access to healthcare.”

Over the years, the mission volunteers have distributed necessities such as food, milk, formula and toys to the community in addition to administering medical care.  Most of these people have never been treated with any form of western medicine, including antibiotics.  “We offer one course of treatment and they respond immediately. It’s absolutely amazing.”

The most recent mission was in late September of 2011, and the group was comprised of both seasoned and first-time volunteers. Over the years, several HackensackUMC employees have become mission volunteers, including Jennifer Rose, RN. College student Pablo Miranda, son of HackensackUMC pediatrician Rosa Miranda, M.D., took an interest in the mission while going through a difficult time in his life. “Because of things happening in my personal life, I went on the mission hoping it would reinvigorate my outlook and path in life. It did. It was amazing to see how these people have so little and still experience such joy and happiness.”

Susan Marcin, a school counselor, has accompanied Dr. Obilo on two medical missions and plans on continuing to do so for as long as possible.  “While I’m not a medical professional, I help out with organizational efforts at the clinic and I offer support for the people waiting for care,” says Susan. Among the wonderful people she’s encountered, is a young girl with two clubbed feet.  “Obviously, there is only so much we can do when we host these clinics. Through our efforts, we were able to get her a visa so she can come to the United States for surgery.” 

In 2005, Dr. Obilo officially established the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation to improve health conditions in rural Nigeria where access to basic needs such as healthcare, education and proper hygiene are often limited. Monies raised at the annual gala, along with donations made to the “Nigeria Smiles” campaign fund the travel and accommodations, while medical supplies are donated – often by HackensackUMC.

“The medical center is proud to support Dr. Obilo and the worthwhile medical missionary work done by the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation,” explains Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer, HackensackUMC. “We are also proud of the several team members who have selflessly given their time in the missions, helping thousands of people in need of the most basic medical care.”

Dr. Obilo expressed his gratitude to the medical center as well.  “The HackensackUMC family has been so supportive of our work.  I really couldn’t ask for more.  But in the end, it’s not about the foundation, but the lives we are saving with the overwhelming support we’ve received here in my new home (the United Sates).”

For more information on the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, please visit  For more information on HackensackUMC visit

PHOTO #1: Dr. Iwuozo Obilo, a neonatologist at HackensackUMC and founder of the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, cares for a family during a recent missionary trip to Nigeria.

PHOTO #2:Pablo Miranda, a college student and volunteer with the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, entertains a group of children outside of the medical facilities.

About Hackensack University Medical Center
HackensackUMC, a non-profit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, New Jersey, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. This 775-bed facility has gone beyond traditional thinking by creating an entire campus of care, including: the Heart & Vascular Hospital, the John Theurer Cancer Center, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and the Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital. As a result of using science and creativity to push medicine further, HackensackUMC has been named one of America's 50 Best Hospitals by HealthGrades® for five years in a row - the only hospital in New Jersey, New York, and New England to receive this honor. The medical center has been named to the Leapfrog Top Hospitals List, received 17 Gold Seals of Approval™ by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO),  is ranked in Cancer, Cardiology and Heart Surgery, and Geriatrics by U.S. News and World Report's "2011-12 Best Hospitals" list, is the only New Jersey hospital ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Metro Area Top 10,” is listed as one of the 50 Best Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review, and is a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence, the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation. The Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in the State of New Jersey ever to be ranked in a Best Children’s Hospitals specialty by the U.S. News & World Report’s “2011-12 Best Children’s Hospitals” list. The medical center is the hometown hospital of the New York Giants and the New Jersey Nets, and remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events. To learn more about one of the nation’s top 50 hospitals, visit:   



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