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Living in Far Away Places

“My initial impressions of Dacca were wondrous, sometimes bewildering and spellbinding,” Nalin says. “On being picked up at the airport by Dr. James Taylor, a beggar boy of perhaps 8 years of age grabbed the open window of Jim’s Volkswagen as we were about to leave, and with a grimace and tears gestured with cupped hand at his mouth that he wanted money for food.  My heart melted, but imagine my amazement when Dr. Taylor spoke a few words to him in Bengali asking his name and age.  The demonstration of interest in him in his native language fractured his act and transformed him into a smiling, bashful boy who totally forgot about begging. I gave him a coin anyway, and was driven away, mind boggled.”
- David Nalin, who made the key discovery that led to Oral Rehydration Therapy, on his arrival in Bangladesh

The two things I really don't like in life are hot, humid conditions and rice. And then I looked up in the back of the National Geographic Atlas - they always list the humidity and the temperature - and it was 120 degrees, it seemed to me on average, in the shade, and 100 percent humidity and I said, hmm…. Well, you learn to like rice and you learn to live in hot, humid conditions. But you come into contact with marvelous people - marvelous people locally who are very much committed to moving a country forward and marvelous people who have gathered from around the world in order to work in places like this - a rather extraordinary social and professional opportunity on our part and experience, and that changed my whole orientation towards medicine and towards the areas of research that I wanted to carry out.
- Al Sommer, who discovered that Vitamin A Supplementation saves lives, on working in Bangladesh.

"Dhaka changed him forever."
- W. Henry Mosley, who hired Alfred Sommer in 1970 to work in the epidemiology division of the Cholera Research Laboratory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Mosley sent Sommer and his team to Dhaka to assess the health care needs after a massive cyclone killed more than 240,000 people


“In one sense it was an opportunity to know something about what it’s like to live in a village in Africa.  On the other hand, I’ve always said we could never truly feel that because we could leave anytime we wanted to – anytime it got to be too much. We were able to, during the dry season, hire a young man on a bicycle who could go to the water hole five miles away and get water and bring it back and put it in a 55 gallon drum for us. So we were able to do things that a villager couldn’t and I’ve said that the big lesson for me was – number one, that here we were living in third world conditions and yet our son was living with first world risks, and the reason being – we could apply all the knowledge we had on immunizations, on screening the windows, on boiling the water, and so forth – but, number two, if you had limited me to a dollar a day I would have to have spent that on food and shelter and could not have done these other things – could not have afforded vaccines or even firewood to boil drinking water and so this combination of knowledge applied and poverty – those are the two things that separated us.”
- Bill Foege, whose discovery helped eradicate smallpox, lived with his family in an African hut

“There was a single-story brick and cement building of several rooms for the hospital, on a slip of land which had been picked because of its history as the center of annual cholera outbreaks. The hospital was connected to the bazaar itself by a rickety bamboo and slat wood bridge over a canal, and boat people, a kind of riverine nomadic Bengali gypsy clan, often moored their boat homes on the bank. The hospital was then run by one doctor, the late Mizanur Rahman, who had trained his helpers and nurses to treat the patients and run the place. We visiting investigator young turks were housed on a floating barge inherited by the hospital, whose barred windows were a reminder of its previous incarnation as a jail boat under the British Raj. It was inhabited by some of the largest roaches I had ever seen. One had to be careful during meals, as the local crows were expert at suddenly swooping down on unsuspecting diners and making off with the food. Ambulance boats would come in and go out over the day ferrying cholera patients to and from the hospital.”
- David Nalin, in Matlab Bazaar, Bangladesh