postheadericon Our Partnership

The history of Selian goes back to Rev. Dave Simonson and his wife Eunie.  They came from the midwest and began their ministry in Arusha in 1956. Dave was fresh out of seminary and Eunie was just out of nursing school.    Together they built the ministry and Eunie began to dispense medicine out of her back door daily until she ran out of meds which was almost every day.  Dave then built  a dispensary in the 1960’s under the auspices of the Lutheran Church and with time and increased demands, could not meet the increasing needs of the Masai people. He then became the driving force behind building a hospital. This became known as Selian Lutheran Hospital.  It is located in a suburb of Arusha, Tanzania called Ngaramatoni. The hospital was built in the periphery of Arusha in order to best serve the Masai people which was the mission of the hospital. The first hospital building was started in the early 1980’s.  More buildings were added over the years, and in 1996, a new building consisting of operating rooms (theaters) was completed.  This expansion allowed Selian to be a full service hospital and allowed for the first time to have surgery to be performed  and they brought in their first full time mission surgeon.  A number of surgeons, including myself, began doing short term medical mission trips beginning in 1997.  These small teams of surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists made numerous trips, performing a large number of procedures each time which was very rewarding for the patients, the hospital and the visiting team.

2011 Team in the Chapel at Arusha Lutheran Medical Center

2011 Team in the Chapel at Arusha Lutheran Medical Center

Christmas time of 2004, the devastating tsunami hit Indonesia and elsewhere.  We, as an organization wanted to offer support and assistance to those affected by this terrible disaster. Marty Helldorfer, the Senior VP for Missions for Exempla contacted the Red Cross and they told him that at that time, they had enough physicians, nurses, supplies and money as well as expertise.  He was told to seek out another 3rd world country and find an organization to help.  He was encouraged to make a significant commitment and develop a long term relationship with this institution.  At this time a number of the physicians who practiced at St. Joes and had already been helping Selian began the due diligence including review of their mission and vision statements, the composition of the board, verifying the non-profit and faith based status of the hospital and then met with the Exempla leadership as well as with the Foundation heads. All of this was well received and so on to the next step.

In the spring of 2005, the first official Exempla visit occurred.  This group consisted of Jeff Selberg, CEO of Exempla, Ann Evans CNO at Lutheran, Julie Nunley, CNO at Good Sam, Brenda Chilman, Exempla Comptroller , Marty Helldorfer, Senior VP of Missions, Jack Cochran, Executive Medical Director of CPMG (and a frequent visiting surgeon to Selian), and myself.


After the onsite visit and multiple interviews, Exempla formed a sister hospital relationship with Selian and a 5 year commitment to help.  The help was to be supportive in sharing equipment and supplies, an exchange of personnel, education, financial contribution and at least an annual clinical team to visit Selian.  It was at this same time that it became obvious that another, more advanced hospital needed to be built in Arusha.  We became involved in the planning of the hospital and utilized the experience of those who were involved in building Good Sam. The original hospital, Selian, was to remain as giving care to the neediest as has always been in their mission, regardless of cost or the ability to pay, and the new Arusha Lutheran Medical Center would charge a little more and then be in a position to be able to continue the support of Selian.   Both were to remain under the Bishop of the Arusha of the ELCT.

Exempla associates and physicians visited Arusha 1-2 times a year until the hospital opened its doors in December, 2008. Besides our frequent trips in which we offered our experience in opening a new hospital, we taught classes, helped set up guidelines, protocols and realistic expectations.  The composition of the groups then as well as now depends on their needs, as expressed by Dr. Mark Jacobson, the physician in charge.


Dr. Kisanga, a general surgeon from ALMC has spent time in Denver learning techniques of laparoscopic surgery. Dr. Nnko, an anesthesiologist spent 10 weeks at Good Sam learning how to open and run an ICU and Dr. Sweke from Ob/Gyn  also spent the same time here learning new gyn procedures.  Three months after Dr. Nnko returned to Arusha, the same team from Good Sam that had trained him came to ALMC to help him get the program implemented.

A highlight of our relationship occurred in 2010.  Dr. Kisanga, who by now was an experienced laparoscopic surgeon, told us he now wanted us to help him teach his fellow Tanzanian surgeons in laparoscopic surgery.  Our teams have now helped teach three classes on an annual basis.

Then in 2011, a team consisting of Bob Ladenberger, CEO of Exempla, Sister Amy Wilcox of the Exempla Board and Sister Melissa Camardo, VP of Missions at St Joes and Joel Sigdestad returned to Arusha.  Upon return to Denver, we agreed to another 5 year commitment.

We continue bringing teams annually at the request of Dr. Jacobson.  The latest group was composed of an ICU team, a laparoscopic surgery team, an IT/bio med team, a PT/OT team and a community team.  In the past, SCL has had Ob/Gyn, NICU, lab, PM&R and others.  Our goal with each visit is to educate by teaching and sharing our experiences to help them improve.  We are not there to do their work.  We truly have built a relationship of trust, respect and understanding which allows us to accomplish our goals.

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