Dr Merindy Zoschke, 44, and her husband, Dr Jason Morgension, 45, wanted to be medical missionaries almost all their lives
A physician couple from the US has moved to Tangail to carry forward the Kailakuri Health Care Centre in Madhupur upazila, following the death of Dr Edric Sargission Baker, the New Zealander who established it in 1996.
Dr Edric Baker, affectionately called “Daktar Bhai” (doctor brother), served poor people here for over 32 years until his death after on September 1, 2015, due to a chronic illness. He denied treatment in Dhaka, wishing to breathe his last at the hospital he built. He was laid to rest in the veranda of his mud hut.
Dr Merindy Zoschke, 44, and her husband, Dr Jason Morgension, 45, wanted to be medical missionaries almost all their lives.
Encouraged by the late doctor’s ideals, the physician couple joined the health care facility in July this year as volunteering medical consultants. They have taken up residence in one of the tin-roofed mud huts near the centre in Madhupur, with their four children between three and five years of age, including a pair of twins.
Locals have welcomed the family of six with open arms and started calling Jason, “Daktar Bhai” and Merindy, “Daktar Didi.” With their arrival the hospital seems to have come back to life.
Jason had once visited the clinic while Dr Baker was still alive and well and running the facility in full swing. However, when news of Baker’s death broke, Jason was unable to visit, occupied with other pressing matters.
Locals say they adore seeing Jason in lungi and fatua, and Merindy in salwar kameez, getting along with everyone like their own people. The American couple has learned to communicate in Bangla and are teaching their children to do the same. They have also changed their food habits and are accustomed to various fruits and vegetables abundant in the locality.
Dr Jason, talking to Dhaka Tribune, said: “When I heard about Edric’s death, I wanted to be here, but with my training and children still so young, I couldn’t. Finally, we were able to manage some funds and move here with the family. We are now known as Daktar Bhai and Daktar Didi.
“We have admitted our children to the local school, where they learn and play everyday with all the other Bangali children.”
“We first learned the language here and proceeded to learn the culture, customs and food habits. Both Merindy and I love the local attire and everyone is so friendly here.”
“We are following in Edric’s footsteps in providing health care at the clinic. He once told me to be more a friend to the people than a doctor.”
Pijon Nongmin, a local indigenous youth and executive director of the organization, said after the death of Dr Baker, the health care centre was running like before with support from the government, private organisations, and individuals.
Dr Baker, who was given Bangladeshi citizenship in 2014 and lovingly referred to as “Daktar Bhai”, used to collect funds to run the centre from private donors including his friends and well-wishers in New Zealand, the US and the UK.
However, donations from foreign countries, including New Zealand, have reduced since his death, he added.
The hospital treats about a hundred patients daily with diabetes, tuberculosis, diarrhea, and other diseases. Regular patients need a Tk10 ticket, while new patients have to get a Tk20 ticket to see the doctor. Patients then get prescribed medicine at a negligible price. There is also an emergency department for patients in critical condition.