Monday, July 26, 2010

Ferris Alumni Success Stories: Bill Martin’s Cargo of Hope

A message from Bill Martin carries with it a sense of adventure and the exotic which makes it stand out from more mundane e-mails:

“The M/V Africa Mercy is currently on station in the Port of Cotonou, Benin, West Africa, until Dec. 8, 2009, and then sails to Tenerife, Canary Islands, for six weeks of ship maintenance and inspections. My plans are to depart Cotonou via Air France on Dec. 9 and fly to my home on the Isle of Palms, S.C., for the holidays. I return to the ship in Tenerife on Jan. 17, 2010. We will sail to Lome, Togo, West Africa, for a 24-week Field Service beginning Feb. 10 and then to South Africa for five months of dry-dock to replace our four large generators.”

The 499-foot M/V Africa Mercy is the world’s largest charity hospital ship, which in the past 22 years has performed more than 32,500 surgeries, treated more than 212,000 people in village medical clinics and developed healthcare infrastructure in West Africa by working with local professionals to train others in primary care and surgical skills. Martin is the Africa Mercy’s hospital director, a position he found himself in due to a combination of talent, commitment and envy.

A Busy Retirement

“A little over 12 years ago I retired and started doing work around the world,” Martin says via satellite phone from Cotonou. “I had 22 high school or college exchange students who stayed in my home, and I decided I wanted to travel because I was envious of them.” The path Martin travelled to first contract the travel bug and then become an influential figure in West African healthcare was a circuitous one—albeit one that prepared him well.

After graduating from Ferris with a degree in Business Administration in December 1969, Martin worked for U.S. Congressman Elford A. Cederberg, then-ranking minority member on the House Appropriations Committee. He then spent 18 months with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Martin returned to northern Michigan, becoming involved first with building a ski resort in West Branch, then with constructing rural health clinics, which he did for eight years before specializing in turning around struggling HMOs. After his retirement he was able to put his medical managerial skills to new uses.

For the full version of the story, visit here.

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