NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo Visits Yale Sept. 21–Will Give Talk and View Medical Facilities

Dikembe Mutombo

NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo of the Houston Rockets will visit Yale on September 21 to meet faculty and students, tour medical facilities and deliver a keynote address at 4:30 p.m. in Battell Chapel, corner of College and Elm streets.

Anup Patel, a second year Yale medical student, invited the 7-foot-2 center, not for his fame on the basketball court, but for his humanitarian efforts in his homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). Mutombo, who recently completed his 13th season in the NBA, created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 to improve the health, education and quality of life for people in the Congo. One of the Foundation’s major projects is the construction of a new 300-bed general hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa, which is set to open in June 2006.

The eight-time All-Star and four-time defensive player of the year who also played with Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York, contributed $10 million of his own money to the hospital project, the Congo’s first new medical facility in 40 years.

During the tour of Yale medical facilities, Mutombo will meet with students from Hill Regional Career High School who take classes at the anatomy lab in the Anlyan Center, the School of Medicine’s state of the art facility. He will also meet with Yale basketball players before delivering a keynote address titled “From Kinshasa to the NBA and Back: A Giant Gift to Reform Africa’s Health.” The talk is free and open to the public.

Patel decided to contact the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation after attending a New York Knicks game where former Knicks assistant coach Brendan Suhr told him about Mutombo’s humanitarian efforts. Patel contacted the Foundation to express Yale’s interest in Mutombo’s activities and explore ways to help.

As an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Patel co-founded a charity with friend Rina Patel called Cents of Relief. Along with other members including NFL Pittsburgh Steeler Max Starks, they generate funds through activities such as the Cents of Relief Golf Tournament. Money raised by the organization has paid for medical supplies for women in prostitution, sent children infected with HIV/AIDS to boarding school and covered monthly check-ups by local physicians.

Dikembe Mutombo

Mutombo’s work is well known in the NBA and beyond. In 2000, he received the President’s Service Award, the highest honor given by the White House for volunteer service. He does all this because in the Congo, the average life expectancy is 45 years, and nearly one in five children die before their fifth birthday. A 1997 World Health Organization study found that access to health care is a major problem in the Congo.

Diseases such as measles and polio, which have long been eradicated from most developed countries, are still widespread in the Congo. Malaria is the number one killer in the Congo. Physicians and nurses at the new hospital will treat all conditions, offering expertise in general medicine, urology, orthopedics, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. Specialized departments will offer services in surgery, obstetrical care, radiology and nuclear medicine. Researchers will have access to the hospital’s laboratories for biochemistry, hematology, bacterial and parasitic sampling.

Named after Mutombo’s late mother, the Biamba Marie Mutombo hospital will provide special care to Kinshasa’s poorest residents and train its health professionals with the latest innovations in health care. According to Mutombo, “If I was going to do something that will carry my legacy, I wanted to make sure it was very good, that it will stop the suffering, that will help the people that don’t have a chance to go on a plane to go to South Africa or Europe to get treatment.”

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