Obituary of Dr. Bernard Bradley Anderson: The ever-generous friend of Ethiopia and its people
Dr. Bernard Bradley Anderson
(September 21, 1944 – January 2, 2014)
Dr. Bernard Bradley Anderson was born to his parents the Andersons in St. Catherine parish, Jamaica, where he grew up on the family’s citrus farm. When he was of school age, he attended the prestigious Wolmer’s Boys’ School, the oldest school in the Caribbean. He came to the United States in the early ’60s and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. and earned a Bachelor’s degree graduating at the top of his class and was duly admitted to the School of Medicine.
He showed exceptional fortitude supporting himself financially through medical school by working as a concierge at an apartment complex in Washington during the night and taking a full course load during the day.
Bernie, as he was affectionately called by friends and family, exhibited altruism, benevolence and competence while he was still in medical school by establishing the first residency review program at the university to help fellow medical students pass the residency examination. In the early ‘70s, after graduating from medical school and being fully-certified as a surgeon, Dr. Anderson returned to Jamaica to serve at Kingston Public Hospital, an institution that provided free medical care to the indigent and the underserved. He also taught medical students some of whom became his closest and life-long friends.
As a teacher, Dr. Anderson invested as much time working to instill virtues such as selfless service in his students and imbue them with compassion as he did imparting his laudable medical skills. Former students fondly remember how he taught them to have no ambition as it can potentially engender putting one’s self interest first and that of the patient next. Selfless service, humanism, compassion and ethics weren’t virtues that Dr. Anderson only inculcated his students with but were guiding principles for everything he did and stood for. To those who knew him since his days at Kingston Public Hospital, his exceptional surgical skills and unbridled humanism were evident early in his career while working under very challenging conditions and took on the most difficult cases, the ones that most doctors shunned or were unable to deal with.
At the completion of his dedicated service at Kingston Public Hospital, he returned to the United States to serve at yet another institution located in an underserved community, the former D.C. general hospital where his considerable surgical and leadership skills catapulted him to the position of chairman and director of surgery. Under his tutelage, the hospital regained its status as, and went on to become one of the top trauma centers in the city and the only one located east of the Anacostia River.
Dr. Anderson made the Pennsylvania avenue portion of Southeast Washington his home and opened his private medical practice on Rhode Island Ave. NE, to meet the unmet medical needs of the community and provided his services to the neediest, often free of cost. His generosity extended beyond serving the underserved at a great personal cost to him and into the realm of philanthropy. Among his many donations, his gift of $100,000 to his alma mater is notable in that he made the donation without seeking any kind of formal recognition or time in the limelight.
Dr. Anderson was much more than a compassionate and highly competent surgeon but a renaissance man in his own rights. He holds patents to two inventions; Internal by-pass shunt apparatus for the inferior vena cava (Patent number: 6325776) and Method of using a dedicated internal shunt and stent for the inferior vena cava (Patent number: 6148825). He was an accomplished architect who designed the Azezo hospital in northern Ethiopia. He is a published author of Limbic glimpses, a collection of poems which was illustrated by his mother. He is also an exceptionally talented craftsman who built boats. Among his many accomplishments, the one he poured his heart and soul into is the investment he made in a multitude of people, among whom are those that he raised or was a father-figure to. He played a significant role in the upbringing of his niece and nephew as well as step in to assist other family and friends in their times of need.
Dr. Anderson’s passion to ease the pains of the ailing was almost innate and sharing their pain a fervent desire that he espoused from the time he was a very young man. He also aspired to one day go to and serve in Ethiopia, the land where humans originated and Marcus Garvey viewed as the “Promised Land”. His lifelong dream began to take shape and the prospect of travelling to Ethiopia was conceived thanks to a shared vision he had with his partner in life, Sister Imawaysh Gerima. On a visit to Tanzania and Kenya, he was saddened to see the lingering effects of decades-long colonialism. Upon arrival to Ethiopia, the sight of abject poverty and immense human suffering didn’t break his will but intensified his zeal to serve. Those who met him during his visit at the Black Lion teaching hospital and St. Gabriel private hospital in Addis Ababa saw the potential in him and asked him to join their ranks.
While on a visit of rural Ethiopia, he was heartbroken to see people who are so deprived of basic medical care that they’ll trudge for days on end to come to a medical facility and wait for weeks to get rudimentary care. He chose the historic town of Gondar in northern Ethiopia as his home away from home and the half-a-century old Gondar hospital and medical college became his institution of choice for his tireless service. True to his deeply held belief in and dedication to serving the needy, Dr. Anderson blended in with the community and became its most dedicated servant. This famed surgeon who could have affiliated himself with the most prestigious medical institutions anywhere chose to serve at the foot of the poor and suffering masses of Gonder and its vicinity. He spent a considerable amount of his own funds to build a shelter for those who have come from far and away in search of healing but were rendered homeless for lack of shelter while awaiting medical help. The hundred-bed Azezo hospital was built by Dr. Anderson and his wife to alleviate the chronic shortage of medical establishments in the area.
The ever-generous, ever-altruistic Dr. Anderson didn’t seek the comfort of life but chose to serve the less fortunate by being amidst them. His kindness was rewarded with the love and profound admiration of those that he served. His selfless service to those in need earned him an undying love and a permanent place in the hearts of all that he so sacrificially served.
Dr. Anderson never shied away from human suffering but showed courage and compassion in confronting it. He worked tirelessly and without much respite all his life. He loved Ethiopia and its people. He embraced its ancient values and made it a part of his spiritual life. He was baptized according to the Ethiopian Orthodox faith and made it his will that his final rites be conducted in the centuries-old Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition and his body be laid to rest in its ancient soil.
By living his life virtuously, Dr. Anderson taught us to live in the service of the less fortunate. He taught us that we can achieve greatness and overcome the pitfalls of self-absorption by being a humble and respectful servant of the suffering masses of humanity. Through his lifelong dedication to service to the indigent, he showed us the converging point of words and deeds is where one’s humanity is demonstrated. Even as we miss his larger-than-life persona and irreplaceable presence, we are keenly aware that he has finished his race and accomplished his mission. He has led us to the land of service, kindness and magnanimity.
Dr. Anderson was a force of nature for good who graced us with his presence but has to leave us to go to his heavenly abode.
Ethiopia, the land that he so loved and sacrificed so much for, will raise its hands high up in the air and praise him.
Dr. Anderson was a father of two sons.
May his soul rest in peace. Click here to read the Amharic version of the Obituary