When one thinks of a dragon slayer, the image of St. George slaying the evil dragon comes to mind. In the story, St. George rescued a village by slaying a dragon that demanded they sacrifice their young to the point that the King’s own daughter was in peril.
While the story of St. George, the patron saint of England, is well known throughout the Christian world, the saintly work of Dr. Donald R. Hopkins is not.
Indeed the soft-spoken and modest Miami native of Coconut Grove is hardly known. At age 71, his humble beginnings as the son of Bahamian immigrants underscore his struggles in a country that was rife with racism to become Vice President for Health at the Carter Center.
As a 10th grade Miami Northwestern student, Dr. Hopkins took a test which resulted in him skipping 11th and 12th grades to enter Morehouse College. Dr. Hopkins’s professional relationship with former President Jimmy Carter culminated in both of them being Knighted by the country of Mali. In addition, he was dubbed by Nigerians as “Healer of the World.”
Along the lines of a fire breathing dragon, the Guinea worm which has plagued mankind since biblical times, excretes a burning acid to create a blister on the skin of its victims, hence creating a burning sensation. It was once known as dracunculiasis, or “affliction with little dragons.” Calcified evidence of the Guinea worm has even been found in an Egyptian mummy. The Guinea worm enters the human body via a village’s water supply which is usually a stagnant pond. Once the larva enters the body, it can grow as long as 36 inches before migrating to the skin, usually a foot, hand or even an eye socket. Secondary infections and a litany of complications can result, diminishing life expectancy.
To fight this plague of mainly African villages, Dr. Hopkins sword is the sword of knowledge. The University of Chicago Medical School graduate, Harvard Medical School educator and retired C.D.C. director has been on a quest of educating villagers of the importance of using filtration techniques prior to drinking. His eternal optimism and faith are extensions of his sword which he uses to build local native networks and relationships that continue to educate.
Due to his perseverance and tenacity in dealing with petty wars, politics and defeatist obstacles, Dr. Hopkins’s quest has resulted in reducing the number of cases from 3.5 million in1986 to less than 600 cases worldwide! Complete eradication is well within reach! His formula for eradication of this disease was the strategy of direct intervention with segments of a population. This pre-emptive initiative was the same one he used to help eradicated the deadly smallpox virus. In doing so, Dr. Hopkins saved the lives of an estimated 50 million people! Smallpox up to now is the only disease that has been wiped out from the face of the earth.
Our country, our world, needs real heroes as opposed to those that seek glory through wars and politics. Given his life-long work over insurmountable odds we need to look no further than Dr. Donald Hopkins.
Dr. Donald Hopkins is our modern day St. George and indeed someone whom is worthy of higher recognition. Former President Carter was quoted as saying, “He is a doctor and a public health professional committed to alleviating the suffering of millions who go unnoticed by the media. There have been few heroes in my life and Dr. Donald R. Hopkins is one of them.”
With all accolades aside, one can only presume that these efforts have been nothing less than phenomenal. A very profound and persistent question that has always eluded humankind and now being answered is simply…” Am I my brother’s keeper?” Given the magnitude of Dr. Hopkins’s efforts, one would conclude that his answer has overwhelmingly been…I am.
Horace G. Feliu is a freelance writer, former Mayor and author of the controversial new thriller, The Nativity Conspiracy www.thenativityconspiracy.com