Diminishing the Expanse Between Myself & Those Who Suffer: Sadigh’s #ClimbforaCause

April 3, 2018 by Jennifer Nachbur

On February 9, 2018, Majid Sadigh, M.D., director of the Global Health Program at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine and Western Connecticut Health Network WCHN), began a nine-day trek up the 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds to build a microbiology laboratory at St. Francis Naggalama Hospital. The fundraiser – called Climb for a Cause – aimed to raise at least one dollar for each foot of the Climb. To date, the effort has raised $20, 242.

St. Francis is a small community hospital in rural Uganda and one of the UVM Larner/WCHN Global Health Program locations where medical students and residents train.

Sadigh, who is 69 and the Christian J. Trefz Family Endowed Chair in Global Health at Danbury Hospital, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro three times before. According to a WCHN communication about his fundraising effort, “The first time was to earn forgiveness from his late father, the second to learn humility and the third to accompany his son and build relationships for his ongoing attempt to create a health center at the base of the mountain.”

For his fourth climb, Sadigh said “This time I have a bigger motivation.” “My heart has been touched by the poor people of Naggalama.”

In his recent Global Health Diaries blog post, titled “Magical Mountain,” Sadigh describes what motivates him to “periodically trek Kilimanjaro:”

“As a physician, I strive to diminish the expanse between myself and those who suffer. It is through enduring pain and suffering that helps me better understand and advocate for those in need. Particularly, the last seven hours of the climb to Kilimanjaro’s peak induce all manner of suffering: difficulty breathing, extreme exhaustion, bitter subfreezing temperatures, gusting dusty winds, crushing bone, joint, and chest pain, cramps, severe headache, sore throat, and nausea . . . the reminder of the diversity and complexity of pain and suffering is one of my main motivations to periodically trek Kilimanjaro. Climbing the ‘Big K’ takes you through climaxes of pain and self-awareness, ultimately shaping you into a more responsive and hopefully more humble person.”

Three members of Sadigh’s seven-person climbing team accompanied him for the final stretch of the trek from Brafu Camp to Stella Point and finally, to Uhuru, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

On February 23, he traveled to Naggalama, where he received the Award of Unity from St. Francis Naggalama Hospital board members and medical staff and discussed the future strategy of the exchange program.

The Danbury, Conn.-based News Times newspaper published stories before Sadigh’s climb and after he had completed his Mount Kilimanjaro climb.

In addition to the Uganda sites, the UVM Larner/WCHN Global Health Program sends medical students and residents to train and provide care in countries including Zimbabwe, the Dominican Republican, Russia and Vietnam. Visit the Global Health Program page.