Medical Mission to Tanga

Two sisters look on as they wait for treatment at the clinic in Tanga, Tanzania. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

It was my pleasure to document and be part of a medical mission to Tanga, Tanzania to help bring primary health care into five rural villages and urban communities in the Tanga region. In conjunction with the Toledo Tanga Sister City Committee, the Rotary Club of Tanga, and the World Health Organization’s Dr. William Mwengee, the team was comprised of volunteers and medical students led by Dr. Richard Paat, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toledo College of Medicine and Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, Professor of Surgery and Tropical Medicine, George Washington University. Dr. Paat was instrumental in organizing not only this trip but 40 other medical missions including trips to the Guatemala, Philippines, Honduras and disaster areas like Cuba and Indonesia; Dr. Geelhoed has over 200 medical missions to his credit over the course of 5 decades and has written over 800 articles and four books, the most recent an autobiography which is being released in early 2011. With funding from a two-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the, the primary goal of the trip was not only to treat locals but more importantly to bring sustainable, cost-effective primary health care services into the rural villages and educate a handful of villagers in first aid, suturing skills, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, malaria, HIV and TB. The team transformed a local school into a triage unit, clinic, and pharmacy over the course of 4 days and saw over 200 patients a day. In addition, a dental clinic under Mike Kastner, DDS performed over 350 extractions and procedures over the course of four days. It was a great success with the local Pongwe Clinic opening their new operating room, which saw it’s first 50 procedures completed under the direction of Dr. Geelhoed, with the local group of newly educated medical assistants continuing immediately after our departure.

I can’t even begin to write about all the different experiences I had, people I met, and how much this trip changed my life and my perspective on things; living in a country like the U.S. you really take for granted necessities like clean water, food, medicine, and even electricity. Growing up in Los Angeles, everything was geared towards the consumers, capitalism and the “haves” rather than the educators, volunteers and the “have-nots”. I can only hope that area of Tanga continues to benefit from our trip and the Health Promoter System proves to be a successful model for them and other developing countries.  But as long as groups of selfless individuals freely give their time and knowledge to make a difference in so many peoples lives in such a short time then you can believe that anything is possible.  Special thanks to my mother-in-law Linda Inskeep RN who was part of the mission and introduced me to the group; Dr. Paat and and Dr. Geelhoed who were inspirational leaders and rolemodels for all; and the rest of the team including Mike Kastner DDS, Josie Hardy RN, Edward “Jay” Miller MPH, Dennis Bensch, Katrina Ducis, Kannan Samy, Audrey Roberts, Shweta Pai, Meghan Kaumaya, Todd, Ludwig, Holly Pierce and Dennis Steinauer. It was a pleasure to meet and work with you all, thanks for the good times, great memories, and hope to do it again! Below are some of my favorites from the trip to Tanga as well as our down time in Zanzibar afterward – you can view the photos in larger format on the gallery in my website. Asante Sana, Maisha Marefu!!!

Tanzania is located in Central East Africa with much of it’s eastern borders lying on the Indian Ocean (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A aerial view of tightly packed building outside of Dar Es Salam, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A mother holds her sick daughter outside of the clinic in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Locals line up for hours waiting for treatment outside the clinic in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A man bikes with casava roots in front of the Pongwe Clinic in Tanga, Tanzania. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A young boy looks inside the window of the school room converted into the triage as he waits to be seen by medical staff. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A man waits inside the clinic in front of a school chalkboard used to educate local medical staff. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Man awaits surgery at the Pongwe clinic (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Medical student Audrey Roberts comforts an elderly man while Dr. Geelhoed educates a local medical assistant on the administering of a spinal for a removal of hernias (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Young man grimaces in pain while in surgery to remove a hyrdoseal from one of his testicles in the Pongwe Clinic in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Dr. Geelhoed shakes the hand of Rafiki, both birth brothers at 71 years of age, after Dr. G removed a hernia from Rafiki and Kanaan Samy sutures up the wound in the operating room at Pongwe Clinic (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A general view of the examination room converted from one of  the schools classrooms (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Mike Kastner DDS inspect the teeth of a young girl as Holly Pierce assists (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A young girl is held down by her parents and staff as she struggles while having her teeth pulled in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A young girl looks on from inside the clinic as doctors diagnose her with a secondary infection from a dental procedure she had a month ago. Editors note: this was not a result of any procedure by Mike Kastner DDS (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Young fisherman, Tanga (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A local fisherman cuts up the days catch as his cat eats the scraps in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Young boy waits in cue outside the clinic (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Dr. Richard Paat fits a hearing aid to a local adolescent’s ear. The team from Toledo came with 14 large army duffels packed with medicine and supplies, as well as hearing aids and eye glasses (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A boy plays soccer with a ball made up of pieces of trash in Tanga, Tanzania. Soccer is the country’s most popular sport and with the World Cup going on everyday you would see groups of adults and children playing the in streets (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Locals play a pick-up game of soccer on the beach in front of a beached freight ship in Tanga (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Locals play more soccer at dusk (Photo by Donald Miralle).

World Cup ads in the streets of Tanga (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Mother-in-Law Linda Inskeep RN from San Diego, California in the clinic on one of many long hot days in Tanga. (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Locals wait outside the clinic al day for medical attention (Photo by Donald Miralle).

2nd year medical student Meghan Kaumaya with patients in the Tanga clinic (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Young girl in dress waits for medical attention at the temporary triage unit in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Man has his blood pressure read by a local RN at the temporary clinic in Tanga, Tanzania (Photo by Donald Miralle).

4th year medical student Katrina Ducis listens to the chest of a patient with a stethoscope (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Girls wait for their father to come out of surgery at the Pongwe clinic in Tanga (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Boy runs through the narrow streets of Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Obama is represented on nearly ever fabric vendor in the market in Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Chickens delivered to the market via motorcyle in Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Chickens are slaughtered in the Zanzibar market (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Meat Market Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Street scene Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Children from a local school look at a memorial for slaves in Zanzibar, once a major port for the eastern Africa slave trade market (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Commuters on the ferrey boat watch the sunset as we arrive on Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

View from Dar to Zanzibar ferrey (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Stone town in Zanzibar is an interesting mix of architecture with African, Muslim, and Indian influences (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Street Scene Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Water Channel through reef off the coast of Zanzibar (Photo by Donald Miralle).


  1. Jonathan Moore says:

    Very nice Donald. I really like the photo taken of the surgery procedure taken from the high angle. The man in front of the chalkboard is also very nice – good composition. Are you back home now?

    • Yup, back in SD…btw, do you have any interested in documenting the Catalina Crossing this year? I am planning on doing the race and our support boat might have an extra seat in it for you if you’re interested…

  2. Really powerful set of images Donald. The boy running through the streets is my personal favourite, nicely composed.


  3. Nice pics bro!

  4. I know it was not the subject, but the one from Zanzibar especially the water channel are really impressive.
    about the Locals line up for hours waiting for treatment outside the clinic, I’ve seen the same kind of picture in the US when these doctors make a one day doctor for free…unfortunately 😦
    opposition could be interesting.
    some have really nice lightning.

  5. Mike Kastner says:

    Donald, fantastic pix! You do know that post-op patient with cellulitis was not my patient, right?! Can’t wait to get together with the wives in CA. I greatly enjoyed your company. Next time could we just cuddle?

    • Don’t worry Mike, I’ll vouch for you that you didn’t treat that girl with cellulitis…let’s set up that wine tasting trip with the wives and we can share the room with a twin bed so we can relive our Dar Es Salam hotel experience…

  6. so proud of you- this must’ve been an amazing trip. wonderful photos, donald. do you need an assistant for you PI trip? not joking.

  7. Donald, it’s great to see you making photographs in a non-sports world. It’s quite a challenge, huh? I’m pleased going to Tanga helped keep you grounded. It’s sad how much we take for granted. Keep up the good work!


    • Hey Charles, I’ve always enjoyed working outside of my comfort zone and shooting nonsports photos, especially if it can communicate an important message to people. Unfortunately, you don’t get many of those opportunities when you are known for one genre of photography (or any creative work) for a long period of time and subsequently get type casted as that type of artist. Getting grounded and pushing your own envelope is sometimes the best way to reset your system and expand your horizons for sure.

  8. Really incredible pics Donald. They really made an impression. We take so much for granted. We’re truly blessed.

  9. William Mwengee says:

    Donald, thank you for your enthusiasm and nice photos. You are warmly welcome again to Tanzania specifically Tanga.
    It was nice to host a hard working group able to work in resource contraint situations.
    Your photo documentary tells it all, Thank you

  10. I love seeing you prove what in my opinion is a fact that people who can photograph sports very well, can also do an amazing job of photographing any other documentary situation! I can’t pick a favorite here, but I hope to see a lot more of this type of work from you! It’s addictive to both see and do isn’t it?

  11. Dear Mr. Miralle –

    Greetings from the rainy Midwest! I was moved by your photos because they truly tell the story of what you saw. I am a communications officer for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint, Michigan), a nonprofit organization.

    I would like your permission to use the photo of the foot on the makeshift soccerball for a video we are making to promote an audio essay series written by our grantees in South Africa.

    The essays are written by four nonprofit leaders in the country, including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Both the video and the essays will be posted on our website and publicly accessible at no cost.

    I look forward to a favorable reply.

    All the best,

    Maggie Jaruzel Potter
    C.S. Mott Foundation


  1. […] Continue reading about the project and see more images on Donald’s Blog. […]

  2. […] Continue reading about the project and see more images on Donald’s Blog. […]

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