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Volvo Names Detroit Doctor America's Greatest Hometown Hero
Pioneering Heart Surgeon Working to Bring Healthcare to His Homeland of Ethiopia Named Top Hero at 4th Annual Volvo for life Awards
"Dr. Ingida Asfaw not only embodies the American dream –– of the impoverished immigrant achieving extraordinary success and skill in his or her adopted land –– but also the meaning of American citizenship at its most profound."
Award Presented by Hank Aaron, Maya Lin, Sen. Bill Bradley, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Dr. Sally Ride; Dr. Ingida Asfaw Received $50,000 and a Volvo Car for Life
NEW YORK, April 13 -- Dr. Ingida Asfaw, an Ethiopian-born Detroit heart surgeon who kept a half-century promise to himself by creating an international coalition to address his homeland's medical crises, has been named "America's Greatest Hometown Hero" at the 4th Annual Volvo for life Awards ceremony. For his efforts, he receives a $50,000 contribution to the charity of his choice and a new Volvo every three years for life.
Dr. Asfaw, 68, founded the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA) in 1999 with the goal of providing healthcare to the people of Ethiopia, a country where the ratio of physicians to population is 1 per 100,000. Today, ENAHPA is a network of more than 500 medical and non-medical professionals and volunteers from the United States, Canada, China and South America who donate their time and talents to address the Ethiopian healthcare crises through medical mission trips and other social initiatives.
Held at the Rainbow Room on April 12, the Volvo for life Awards ceremony capped off the largest-ever national search for and celebration of everyday heroes, providing $1 million in awards and financial contributions.
The 4th annual initiative, launched in July 2005, called on people nationwide to visit www.volvoforlifeawards.com and nominate an unsung hero they know in one of three categories: safety, quality of life and environment. Volvo received 4,341 nominations representing all 50 states. In February 2006, Volvo selected 100 semi-finalists and narrowed the field to the top three finalists in the three categories.
A distinguished panel of judges -- including Hank Aaron, Sen. Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Sir Richard Branson, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Val Kilmer, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride and Hope Bevilhymer (3rd Annual Volvo for life Awards winner) -- then reviewed the finalists' nominations and selected a winner in each of the three categories. Judges selected Dr. Asfaw as the winner in the quality of life category and the overall grand winner.
About Dr. Ingida Asfaw
In 1958, 16-year-old Ingida Asfaw left his native Ethiopia to study medicine in the United States. At the time, knowing his homeland possessed no formal medical schools and no semblance of a national healthcare program, he promised himself he would become a doctor and return to Ethiopia with healing hands. Now, a half-century later, Dr. Asfaw has kept true to his promise, becoming a world-renowned cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon based in Detroit and creating the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA), an international network of more than 500 medical and non-medical professionals who donate their time and talents in Ethiopia, a country where the ratio of physicians to population is 1 per 100,000.
Dr. Ingida Asfaw, center of Grosse Pointe visits an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the summer. He makes several mission trips to Ethiopia a year
Since 2001, Dr. Asfaw has led ENAHPA on annual medical missions in efforts to address his homeland's "profound healthcare crisis." To date they have distributed anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS, performed Ethiopia's first open-heart surgery and created a child-sponsorship program to support children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In addition, Dr. Asfaw and ENAHPA have delivered more than 10,000 textbooks and journals to professionals and students throughout Ethiopia in the fields of medicine, law, engineering, nursing, pharmacology and social work.
"We are humbled and honored to have learned about these more than 4,000 incredible heroes who embody the values of conscience, care and character this program was intended to celebrate," said Anne Belec, president and chief executive officer for Volvo Cars of North America. "Dr. Asfaw's determination and willingness to dedicate his talents to help others makes him a true hero, setting an example we can all hope to strive for. We wish to congratulate all of our nominees and truly appreciate the task our judges' faced in selecting a winner from a phenomenal pool of heroes."
To learn more about Dr. Ingida and his cause, and how you can make a difference, please visit:
From Volvo Awards for Life
About Ingida Asfaw, M.D.
Dr. Asfaw traveled two weeks from Ethiopia to America aboard a cargo ship in 1958, arriving at age sixteen with little money, a small suitcase, and a big dream: to become a doctor and return to Ethiopia with healing hands. He has achieved his dream against extraordinary odds. But he has never forgotten his homeland and the needs of so many of its impoverished and suffering citizens.
Now based in Metro Detroit, the renowned physician commits his time to improving healthcare standards, access, and supplies in Ethiopia. The country needs his commitment, for the average life expectancy is only 40; the HIV/AIDS pandemic claims millions of lives annually; and the ratio of physicians to population is 1:100,000. To date, Dr. Asfaw has donated personal resources and finances and galvanized over 550 medical and non-medical professionals throughout the United States and Canada to give their time and talents to address Ethiopia’s profound healthcare crisis. Toward his humanitarian goals, Dr. Asfaw founded the non-profit Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA). The program’s mission:
• Provide medical and surgical services with special focus on women and children
• Promote preventive health maintenance
• Deliver educational materials and medical supplies to healthcare facilities
• Transfer skills and state-of-the-art technologies to healthcare professionals and trainees
• Provide free advanced training to Ethiopian doctors and medical students
• Provide free anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS victims
• Generate financial and educational support for children orphaned by AIDS
• Improve maternal and child healthcare
A humble man but a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Asfaw leads volunteers from the health profession into Ethiopia on semi-annual medical missions. During the May 2005 mission, ENAHPA’s delegation performed nearly 100 surgical procedures; conducted advanced training for 250 Ethiopian healthcare professionals; and donated 32,400 books; provided lifesaving medical equipment, instruments, and supplies to several specialized hospitals, three universities, and a leprosy research training center. During the October 2004 mission, Dr. Asfaw garnered support from several grassroots charities to launch Ethiopia’s first major distribution of free anti-retroviral drugs. The free ARV therapy program, which now cares for 1700 adults and children, will soon include 10,000 patients and serve as Eastern Africa’s blueprint for delivering home-based HIV/AIDS care and treatment. Communities that once lacked hope now believe HIV/AIDS is a treatable disease, as once bedridden family and friends deemed certain to die now lead productive lives.
During a recent medical mission, Dr. Asfaw created a program to support a grassroots Ethiopian organization caring for over 500 AIDS orphans, while his fifteen-person medical delegation performed numerous complex cancer-related oral and maxillofacial reconstructive procedures for impoverished patients. In the same year, Dr. Asfaw and ENAHPA conducted a free, long distance-learning program between American universities Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, and Howard University with over fifty Ethiopian medical professionals. Senior physicians, pharmacy personnel, and various practitioners in Addis Ababa received advanced HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis training. Dr. Asfaw currently spearheads Ethiopia’s efforts to reduce the country’s alarming mother and infant mortality rate through public education and donated maternity kits for clean and safe newborn delivery. He works tirelessly to secure donated funds and advanced medical equipment necessary to build a new Maternal and Child Healthcare Center in the city of Awassa. The city needs it. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 11% of all Ethiopian mothers and children die during or shortly after birth. In rural Ethiopia, nearly 90% of all mothers deliver children at home or walk untold miles to ill-equipped, makeshift clinics. Limited space and beds forces mothers to return home, carrying their newborn children only hours after giving birth.
Dr. Ingida Asfaw not only embodies the American dream –– of the impoverished immigrant achieving extraordinary success and skill in his or her adopted land –– but also the meaning of American citizenship at its most profound. He has educated a generation of healthcare professionals. He has inspired others to reach beyond borders to bring hope to those in desperate need. A man of conscience, a doctor of extraordinary talent, Dr. Ingida Asfaw is also an American hero through the ideals he upholds –– and in the innumerable numbers of people, young and old, whom he has helped to save.
Volvo for Life Awards
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