Drexel Materials Alumnus Helps Form Team to Bring Improved Maternal and Child Healthcare to Uganda

Published on Tuesday September 23, 2014

A humanitarian medical mission may not be the place one would expect to find a materials scientist and engineer.  An interest in helping others is what led materials scientist and engineer Dr. Ronald (Ron) W. Smith, PhD materials ’85, to organize a humanitarian mission to Uganda earlier this year through Rotary International.

As a charter and founding member of the Blue Bell Rotary Club, Smith is committed to community service.  This January, he led the coordination of a grant to bring a Vocational Training Team to help improve Maternal and Child Healthcare in Uganda.  The group was a collaboration between Drexel University’s College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Professions, and College of Computing & Informatics and Makerere University/Mulago Hospital and Kampala North Rotarians. 

“The goal of the collaboration was to bring doctors to and from Uganda to develop distance education programs to serve the healthcare community in Uganda,” says Smith.

The idea for the trip came about when Smith’s son, then a medical student at Drexel, approached him with the possibility of doing a rotation in Africa.  “The entire grant process with Rotary International, from discussion stage to execution, took nearly two years,” says Smith, which included a personal trip to Uganda in January 2013 to meet with the Rotary Club of Kampala North and Makerere University. 

The ultimate goals of the exchange include a focus on maternal and child healthcare education, development of a sustainable computer network for educating healthcare professionals, improvement of a community health center infrastructure with equipment and supplies, and the establishment of greater sustainability via an exchange and training of health professionals.

In May 2015, a team of medical professionals from Makerere University will visit Drexel to bring the exchange of information full circle.  Additionally, another two years of interactions is planned, including improvements in water, sanitation, and power, which will involve the added expertise of engineers.

“Partnerships between one’s alma mater, in this case Drexel University, and one’s passion, in my case, Rotary, are a great recipe for success,” comments Smith. “Our accomplishments to reduce mother and child mortality in Uganda are way beyond one person’s capacity, but our success is showing what the power of one’s idea is when combined with passionate and dedicated partners.”

Smith is founder and President of Materials Resources, Inc. and S-Bond Technologies, LLC.  He served as a research professor and founder of the former Center for the Plasma Processing of Materials at Drexel.  He is a Fellow of ASM International and founding President of its Thermal Spray Society.  He currently serves as Chair of the AWS-C3 Committee on Brazing and Soldering. He has completed over 120 publications in thermal spray, powder metallurgy, gas turbine materials, coatings, and joining. In 2013, Smith was named the Delaware Valley Materials Person of the Year by the Philadelphia “Liberty Bell” Chapter of ASM International.  

Tagged as Alumni ASM International