Who would be the best person to inspire students about active citizenship, community engagement, and learning and serving? An accomplished Western doctor who is well-trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? An African who can speak not only Mandarin but various other Chinese dialects? Or an adventurer who settled in Yunnan, China, for 17 years, to train village doctors? Or Dr Diarra Boubacar, who is all of the above?
“I want to challenge young people to be curious and think about the world. I want to influence the next generation to give back to community,” says Dr Boubacar, at a lunchtime talk titled “African Roots; TCM Herbs; Community Fruits”. Chaired by Dr Tan Lai Yong, Lecturer & Director for Outreach and Community Engagement, College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT), the event was jointly organised by National University of Singapore (NUS) CAPT and the NUS Development Office, as part of the NUS Greater Good Series.
Speaking in impeccable Mandarin (and translated into English by Dr Tan), Dr Boubacar shared with the audience an amazing life story of advocating change for the better in a place that is more than 10,000 kilometres from his hometown in Mali, Africa.
Interested in TCM from an early age, Dr Boubacar arrived in China in 1984 to study Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University, and TCM at Guangzhou University. He then went to Chengdu to pursue a PhD in TCM and worked as a TCM doctor at a local hospital. When he became aware of the needs of countryside patients and the backward conditions in which they live, he began working in rural Yunnan, providing training to village doctors and sharing knowledge with local residents.
When asked why he chose this line of work, he explains, “As a doctor, if you want to understand patients, it is not enough to just sit in a clinic and write prescriptions. You cannot solve health problems this way. You have to get out into the community and understand community context and backgrounds.”
In Yunnan, Dr Boubacar partnered with Dr Tan Lai Yong and started 17 years of community work training village doctors in primary healthcare, and water sanitation projects. He believes that in order to effect long-term change, the local residents must be involved in the processes as well, such as constructing sanitary toilets and building wells for easy access to clean water. With a hands-on approach, he works with them on these projects and teaches them methods to sustain good practices for a long time.
To the question of why he stays to help China instead of his home country, he gives a simple answer, “There are no distinctions between boundaries.”
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact Chow Wei Ling firstname.lastname@example.org