The Jesse Rohde Foundation Selected as “Righter”
Featured Righter: Jesse Rohde
PROFESSIONAL TITLE: Jesse Rohde, Founder/President/CEO, The Rohde Foundation
PEOPLE CAN USUALLY FIND ME….at the Hospital (Maimonides Medical Center) in Brooklyn, New York working as a Resident in Anesthesiology. On the rare chance that I am not at work, I can be found at home working through the many challenges of creating a model for health care accessibility in rural Africa – a model which aims to train local students and leaders to become health care providers for their own communities. The model works like this: Provide scholarships for local students to become health care providers. While they are being trained within their own country The Rohde Foundation converts dilapidated cocoa warehouses into functioning clinics. Upon graduation, these new health care professionals take charge of health care provision within their own communities. To create a sustainable model, The Rohde Foundation backs the provision of health care with local for-profit businesses (11 acre cocoa farm, energy production – converting corn cobs and corn husks into charcoal saving valuable old growth forests) designed to provide local jobs and ignite development in the rural community; 100% coverage of all sleeping spaces with insecticide-treated mosquito nets; Mothers Providing Care (in which local mothers are trained to provide prenatal and postnatal care to their neighbors); The Rohde Foundation’s Insurance Trust in which all residents are provided with health insurance to facilitate the promise of no patient left without care; and an innovative solution for island health care in which local health providers run mobile clinics from canoes. At every turn, local projects and local leaders are placed in positions of power in an effort to provide quality and comprehensive health care to rural Africa.
I’M BEST KNOWN FOR….being the President and CEO of The Rohde Foundation; for commiting my life to impacting others throughout rural Africa; for being part of a constant search for new and innovative ways to care for those who have no voice. Health care as the root of rural African development – that is what I am known for.
IF ONLY YOU COULD HAVE SEEN ME WHEN….I was riding 130 miles through the Sahara Desert with Tuareg nomads, enjoying the night sky, finding my way back to Agadez, Niger.
MOST INTIMIDATING MEETING I’VE EVER HAD WAS….After a long drive from Capetown, South Africa to Qunu, South Africa (Nelson Mandela’s home village) – I found myself at the gate of Presidents Mandela’s home asking the guards if I could speak with him (I was 19 and fearless). When his motorcade appeared from behind the house, I was confronted by the aggression of the guards followed by the intimidating invitation of President Mandela as he motioned for me to join him standing aside from his car. For 20 minutes, President Mandela asked and answered questions about what I hoped to do with my life; why I was in Qunu; what my agenda might be. Paralyzed by the good fortune of this meeting, and overwhelmed by the intimidation of speaking with President Mandela while standing in the middle of his home village (population 73) I was taken by the combination of being intimidated and completely at ease. As I drove away, I felt like I had lived through a dream – a lifetime goal of meeting Nelson Mandela had become reality – of all places, in his home village surrounded by livestock.
I WAS MOST PROUD WHEN….The first patients were seen at The Rohde Foundation’s Oworobong Clinic in rural Ghana. So much time, effort, dreaming, designing, meeting with local and regional chiefs, planning with local Foundation leaders – so much had gone into the conversion of the old cocoa warehouse into a functioning, thriving clinic that when 400 people lined up to be seen on day #1 we knew that we had done well; that the surrounding population of almost 50,000 villagers now had hope for a better future for them and their children – health care access was a reality for thousands who previously had answer to the myriad of sicknesses which strike rural Africa every year.
I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO….be a part of peoples lives and affect as many people, in a positive way, as possible. Medicine was the clearest way for me to do that. International health care and public health – policy making – has been the most effective way of reaching people. Going door to door in rural villages – I find this to be the most rewarding form of health care and health care policy making. When you discuss life and health with people in the comfort of their own home, the answers are not diluted. Over many years, people become comfortable with your presence, and your ability to care for them becomes easier. The access to their lives, what I have always wanted, becomes a reality. The real reward is what follows – people trusting you with their lives and the lives of their children – and knowing that you have the skills to repay that trust. That is the reason why my life is committed to this work. It is the most gratifying experience of my life.
I’M MOST OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE WHEN….I have to dissolve aggression in a remote region of Africa without being able to speak the language. All of the normal avenues that one might turn to in order to explain themselves are lost in translation. It is a helpless feeling to be far away from electricity, communication, food, water, and to have to find your way out.
IF I COULD DO ONE THING DIFFERENTLY I WOULD HAVE….listened more, to the people in the rural village, to family, to mentors – at every level I have learned so much more, and avoided so many pitfalls when I listen to those who know more than I do. The challenge is that when you believe in your ideas so full-heartedly it is hard to see past the clarity that exists in your mind. When I have an idea – a proposal that will help thousands of people – it is very difficult to move away from something that you believe in so fervently. But, my experience has shown me that when I listen to the ideas of those who have come before me – the wise mentor – and then mix them with my own resolutions, the end result is not only powerful, but avoids many of the goal-driven errors created by someone thinking alone.
IF I WERE YOU, I WOULD….plan your next trip to Oworobong, Ghana. The village of Oworobong, in rural Ghana is a place where dreams are made and solutions to a plethora of problems are worked through and turned into reality. It is the kind of place that changes peoples lives – whether you are 15 or 85. I invite you to join The Rohde Foundation and come with us on this adventure.
I’M TERRIFIED OF….failure – of believing in something so much and then not seeing it come to fruition. I want to recognize problems, attempt to solve them, develop a solution, and then put that solution into action. I want to see results. Adapting to a change of plan I am comfortable with. But, truly believing that a worked through solution will have impact and then finding that the concept has failed is terrifying.
I HOPE TO CHANGE….the outcome for millions of people. I hope that people will say, “Because of The Rohde Foundation my life was made better.”Rohde Foundation Videos