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2023 Award for Service: Susan K. Beebout, MD

01MD, 04R–internal medicine, 05F 

Susan Beebout has committed her life’s work to meeting health care needs in underresourced communities in Africa. During her medical training, Beebout and her husband, an agronomist, served as medical missionaries in Kenya and in Malawi; since 2007, they have lived and raised their family in Niamey, Niger. Beebout first arrived to teach at what was then the nation’s only public medical school, Abdou Moumouni University. 

We are missionaries with the Reform Church in America, and they never go into a country and start something new. They always serve under a national partner,” she says. "We are here under the authority of a local denomination, the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger. They make the decisions, and we're here as technical advisors.” 

In 2011, the partnership broke ground on a new medical facility, the Clinic Olivia Primary Care Center. Two years ago, they opened a second clinic location in Dongondoutchi, further increasing access to quality health care in the area. 

Portrait of Dr. Susan Beebout
Dr. Susan Beebout

“There was a real need to provide high-quality care in a way that is sustainable, and to have a place where we could train students and learners,” Beebout says. “It’s pretty huge to be able to put into place, in one of the poorest countries in the world, a clinic that provides good, affordable, modern medicine to people.” 

Beebout continues to teach at Abdou Moumouni University, as well as at a privately run school that offers degrees in nursing, laboratory science, and social work. 

“At Abdou Moumouni, my biggest focus is medical English,” she says. “English is the language of science, so we’re trying to improve English skills so they can access medical literature.” 

Practicing in a low-resource environment brings many challenges, and Beebout has worked to meet each with sensitivity and care. 

“The fact that I can take a history and examine a patient is the main thing that I have; doctors here need it desperately, and no one has taught them how to do it,” she says. “That's something we spend a lot of time learning in my clinic. I still hear myself repeating what they taught me more than 20 years ago at the University of Iowa.” 

Beebout collaborates with the Carver College of Medicine’s Global Health Programs to place medical students, faculty, and alumni in health care settings in Niger, where the trainees and their Nigerien colleagues can mutually exchange knowledge from their diverse health care experiences and backgrounds.  

In all her clinical and educational endeavors in Niger, Beebout has prioritized teaching the power of kindness. 

"There's a saying in French that the patient listened to is half-cured,” she says. "It's really amazing to me that even if we can't necessarily treat someone’s disease, the fact that our staff just listened to the patient is so huge. People leave feeling better.” 

She hopes that her impact will only compound as more generations of Nigerien physicians learn the skills they need to make a difference in their communities and beyond. 

"They will go on to be world-changers here,” she says.