Deadline Now: Miles Levin Nepal Foundation
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Deadline Now: Miles Levin Nepal Foundation

Friday, February 17, 2012

Since 1992, Dr. Richard Keidan has been an attending surgical oncologist at William Beaumont Health System and clinical professor of surgery at Wayne State Medical Center. While exploring the Khotang region of Nepal in recent years, Keidan saw the primitive state of the health and hygiene infrastructure in the region. Soon after, he decided to found the Miles Levin Nepal Foundation for Health and Education, with his Nepalese foundation partner, Namgyal Sherpa.

Jon Levin joins Dr. Keidan on this edition of "Deadline Now." Mr. Levin is the father of Miles Levin, a Detroit boy who became famous nationwide after he was diagnosed with cancer at age 15, and wrote a blog to chronicle his fight against the disease. Miles Levin died in 2007.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this episode of "Deadline Now:"

I think what’s most remarkable about Dr. Richard Keidan is not that he gives unselfishly of his time, talent and energy to help people half a world away. As great as that is, philanthropy is an American tradition. Many physicians have gone to developing or war-torn nations and donated their medical services.

That’s not what Dr. Keidan is doing. Instead, he’s helping the rural Nepalese to help themselves. He’s doing that partly by helping a new medical school establish itself, and helping train doctors in remote rural areas. But he is also at least as concerned with public health work, which is fairly unglamorous but perhaps even more vitally necessary. It is easy to get people excited about a skilled and innovative surgical technique to remove cancer.

Working on a project to bring toilets to a remote rural town doesn’t sound nearly as fascinating. But it has the potential to save far more lives. The first time I met him, Dr. Keidan told me “you get a bigger bang for your buck, medically speaking, by putting money into primary care and, especially, public health services.”

In other words, saving thousands of infants from cholera by ensuring a clean water supply trumps removing a tumor and giving an elderly rich person a few more years of life.

We certainly don’t think of our country as a primitive one. But in some ways, it is. I live near the suburban Detroit hospital where Dr. Keidan has his first-world cancer clinic. But when I broke a couple toes a few years ago, I didn’t go to his hospital’s emergency room.

I knew from experience it would be filled with people without health coverage who had relatively simple problems, but no access to care and no ability to pay. Instead, I went to a private urgent care clinic, because I could afford to do so. Nepal is not the only place in the world that needs better health care in this country.

America does as well, which is what President Obama is attempting to achieve with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed two years ago. You may or may not be a supporter of the President’s approach. But Richard Keidan spends a few months every year enduring stiff winds in a tent because he thinks it is unacceptable that people in rural Nepal lack health care.

Doesn’t seem even more indefensible that people in this country do as well?