Giving Back

"Almost immediately after arriving at P&S in the summer of 1984 I realized I was someplace quite unique. Born the grandson of Spanish and Cuban immigrants, I was able to communicate in Spanish with the Dominican employees where I got coffee most mornings. The difficult circumstances of their lives were not lost on me, and, grateful for the opportunity with which I had been presented, I vowed that one day I would give back. For nearly a decade and a half I have been doing just that—not in Washington Heights but in sub-Saharan Africa, where I share my skills as a urologist with surgeons from Senegal to Ethiopia. I teach in their sparsely outfitted operating rooms and provide them material support. In the outskirts of Dakar, in the village of Yeumbeul, live nearly 300,000 people without access to basic medical care. With the help of my Senegalese colleagues I am building a clinic there that will house a dentist, a nurse midwife, an internist, a pharmacy, and a laboratory. Physician residences on the building’s third floor will allow medical volunteers to live comfortably while exploring both the difficulties and great rewards of providing health care to one of the world’s most underserved populations. My ties to P&S remain strong. I have been back on its campus to share some of the highlights of my African project. My dream is to have the clinic in Senegal supported by fellow alumni who, in return for the opportunity they have been given, also feel the need to give something back."

— Al Ruenes’88

This was adapted from the Scrapbook section of the P&S 250 website,, where the P&S community is invited to submit reflections and stories about the medical school.