In the 1980s, Maryknoll priest and medical doctor Father Dr. Peter Le Jacq began working at Bugando Medical Centre (BMC), where the lack of supplies, infrastructure and, most crucially, doctors, was hampering patient treatment and quality of care. Consequently, Bishop Aloysius Balina, Chairman of the medical centre, and Father Peter joined together to address these issues.
In July 1994, the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference approved the establishment of Bugando University College of Health Sciences (BUCHS) to train Tanzanian doctors and health workers. Bishop Balina became Chair of the university in addition to the medical centre, and Father Peter, through "Touching Tanzania," continued to build awareness and fundraise among friends in the United States.
In 2001, a crucial meeting took place between Lowell Bryan, a director at McKinsey & Company, and Father Peter, in which they discussed the challenges facing the African medical school. Lowell Bryan became personally involved in supporting Bugando, and later, McKinsey agreed to conduct a pro bono evaluation of the critical shortage of health workers in Tanzania. This evaluation concluded that Bugando could contribute greatly towards a national solution to the health care crisis if it expanded its training programs.
The Touch Foundation was created, under the leadership of Lowell Bryan, to assist Bugando in this scale-up. This assistance involved working closely with the Tanzanian Government and Bugando leadership, on everything from capital investments and the construction of new student housing, to funding additional U.S.-based doctors to teach in the hospital and reorganization of management structures.
In 2004, the Touch Foundation gained U.S. 501(c)(3) tax status as a secular, nonprofit organization. This has enabled the Foundation to galvanize support for the improvement of healthcare at Bugando, and also, at the invitation of the Tanzanian Government, to engage in aspects of health care reform across the country.
The Touch Foundation is able to fund essential elements of this work thanks to contributions by individual donors, private companies, government agencies, and foundations.
Early results at Bugando and the Lake Zone region are already enabling the Touch Foundation to advise the Government of Tanzania on the development of the national health care system. This takes us one step closer to our aim of developing a sustainable approach to improving healthcare - an approach that the Touch Foundation or others can tailor to the health care needs of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.