Out of Africa Pharmacist Who Volunteered in Africa Brought Hope to Ethiopia's Victims of HIV

By Belser, Ann | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

Out of Africa Pharmacist Who Volunteered in Africa Brought Hope to Ethiopia's Victims of HIV


Belser, Ann, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


There are no television dramas about pharmacists who make their way through raging battles to deliver medications just in time to save the day.

A show like that could give pharmacists the sort of glory that "CSI" shows give to forensic pathologists.

But if there were such a television show, it could be based on the life of Sharon Connor, 39, of Point Breeze, who traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia to volunteer as a pharmacist for Doctors Without Borders.

Connor was guest speaker yesterday at Penn State McKeesport as part of the campus program, Teaching Africa 2005. She had prepared a slide show on her experiences with Doctors Without Borders.

Connor didn't serve in a crisis situation, such as when Doctors Without Borders responded to the Indonesian tsunami or African civil wars. Instead, she spent her time in missions that the organization had been running for long periods of time.

In an interview, she said of her work, "It's not like you can say you did anything profound, because you're sort of a cog that is part of sustaining what is already there."

But in Africa, she developed a real knowledge of the country's health issues and the public health policy issues they pose, such as medicines needed to treat AIDS being too expensive for nearly the entire population.

Mary Ellen Higgins, an assistant professor of English at Penn State McKeesport who is on the committee overseeing the Teaching Africa 2005 program, said Connor's talk was the fourth in a series that has also addressed West African history, African art and literature and its similarities to African American art and literature, and African dance.

Every year, Penn State McKeesport conducts a yearlong program about a different part of the world, incorporating the studies by various programs and presentations. Higgins said the list of fall programs on Africa had not been finalized.

In 2002, Connor spent six months in Kenya dispensing medications in a hospital in the small town of Homa Bay, where Doctors Without Borders had set up a project to combat HIV and tuberculosis. …

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