March 12, 2024

Interview: Kurt Bischofberger


Lörrach is his home, but Dr. Kurt Bischofberger has spent a large part of his life in Africa. Always working as a volunteer doctor, and always together with his wife Ulrike Bischofberger: as a trained nurse, her expertise and help was more than welcome everywhere.

The couple visited the partner hospital in Nyangao, Tanzania, for the second time with Artemed Stiftung in the fall of 2023. In this interview, the doctor tells us about his motivation, how he came to Artemed Stiftung and, of course, what he experienced there.

Artemed Stiftung (AS): Good afternoon, Mr. Bischofberger. Nice of you to take the time today to tell us a bit about yourself and your time in Nyangao. You have already been to Africa many times. Can you tell us a little about it?

Kurt Bischofberger (KB): Yes, with pleasure! It's true, I traveled a lot on the continent as a young gynaecologist and learned to love the people and the culture there. My first assignment lasted over three years, when I was in South Sudan with my wife and the German Development Service.

AS: Wow! Three years - that's a long time.

KB: It is the length of time that is recommended for such stays. You need the first year to settle in. During this time, there are many moments when you want to go back home, especially as there was no telephone, internet or any other means of communication with the outside world. Things get really good in the second year. You've arrived, have lots of friends and are well integrated into everyday life there. In the third year, you start to not want to go back. To avoid "resocialization" in Germany becoming difficult, a period of three years should serve as a benchmark.

AS: And so you wanted to go back to Germany?

KB: Yes, definitely. Even after our first time in Africa, we always wanted to go back there. It had a big impact on us, and so we spent varying lengths of time in South Sudan, but also in Kenya and Eritrea several times, for example. Then came our children. We were back down there with the eldest Anne-Kathrin. This time was particularly nice, as you are integrated in a completely different way with a child. It also had an interesting positive influence on the local people, who noticed, for example, that my wife breastfed the child for a long time, which encouraged many people to do the same.

AS: And then you stopped driving for a while?

KB: Yes, that's right. Then three more children came along. Then it just became too complicated for us and with school etc. it wasn't possible for a short time. I didn't want to go alone. Firstly, because I always wanted to experience it as a couple and secondly, because of course I also enjoyed the time at home with my children.

AS: That's understandable. But now you've been on the road again?

KB: Exactly. The children are now grown up and so we wanted to get going again. But then corona intervened and our plans were delayed. I then heard about the foundation through a colleague at the time who was moving to the Artemed Clinic in Freiburg and immediately got in touch with Veronika Hofmann (editor's note: Managing Director of AS). She confirmed our involvement. That was in 2022.

AS: And then it started straight away?

KB: Almost. We were very lucky because the gynecologist Dr. Kasoga from the hospital in Nyangao was visiting Germany that year. He was very interested in endoscopic surgery and I invited him to visit the hospital in Villingen and perform endoscopic operations with me. That was a wonderful time and of course very helpful for my planned assignment with him at St. Walburg's Hospital.

AS: So you already knew your Tanzanian colleague when you arrived there?

KB: That's right. That was great, we were able to get started straight away and now work with him.

AS: How did you feel in Tanzania? What differences might there have been compared to your stays in the past?

KB: A key aspect was and is that a senior like me is valued and respected. Most doctors, including Dr. Kasoga, really value my knowledge and see me as an experienced gynaecologist. This was also easier for me compared to the past: as a young doctor, you sometimes feel very strange when you think you have to explain something to colleagues with many years of experience.

AS: And now you were there for the second time in 2023?

KB: That's right. Of course, everything goes much faster on the second visit. You know the premises, the staff on site and the daily routine. I was able to help even better this time and had a great counterpart in Dr. Kasoga, with whom it was fun to discuss things in order to achieve the best possible goal together.

AS: Do you have a specific example?

KB: Yes. I noticed, for example, that Tanzanian doctors carry out prolapse operations very differently to us in Germany. We then sat down together and considered which of the options would be best for Tanzania - particularly in terms of the instruments available here, the material and, of course, the expertise.

AS: Was there anything that was special for you during your last assignment?

KB: That was indeed the case: Dr. Kasoga asked me and commissioned me to perform a necessary operation on his wife Geni. - That showed me how much trust he has in me and I was very honored by that.

AS: That's really great, of course. And what happens now?

KB: Tanzania is a great country. The people live in the here and now, are always in a good mood, sing and dance a lot, have a flowery language and are very communicative. We love being there! We are welcome and accepted. In Dr. Kasoga, I have not only gained a highly valued colleague, but also a great friend. That's why we definitely want to go back this year or next!

AS: Of course we're delighted. Thank you very much for the interview!

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