On a mission of healing

In times of war and in times of peace, Dr. Susan Nagele (LAS '78) has brought medical care to thousands across Eastern Africa.
Written by Kim Schmidt

Susan sits in a pew in her childhood church in front of a banner depicting Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking. Bakhita was from Sudan, a country where Susan spent twelve years providing medical care in the midst of a brutal civil war. As bombs fell, she moved nine times in six months to follow displaced people who needed health care.

“It is very important in war that people know they are not forgotten—that you stayed with them when they were very much in need.”Susan Nagele

When Susan shakes your hand in greeting, she wraps both of hers around yours and lingers for a moment. Her soft voice and hearty laugh belie the hardships she’s witnessed, instead revealing the joy and profound sense of community she has found as a physician in Eastern Africa.

In her career, she has brought medical care to communities that lack health services as well as worked alongside hospital workers to improve patient care and organizational practice—all part of her work with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, a Catholic organization.

Dr. Susan Nagele and Sr. Veronicah at a clinic in the city of Bamba, Kenya.

Her career began in a peaceful Tanzanian town where up to three children a day died of measles. Her vaccination program eradicated the disease completely in six years. Thirty years and three countries later, she is now in Kenya educating nurses and hospital administrators as well as seeing patients.

“The way we treat those most in need reveals who we are,” she said. “If we realize that loving each other is the most important thing, we would do what’s right.”