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SLU Cardiac Fellow, With His Brother, Will Give Atlas Week Keynote Address 'Sons of Lwala'

by Maggie Rotermund on 04/04/2018
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Fred Ochieng’, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and his brother Milton Ochieng’, M.D., will deliver the Atlas Keynote Address, “Sons of Lwala: Honoring the Dreams of Our Parents.” The two are co-founders of Lwala Community Alliance

The Signature Symposium will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, in the Wool Ballroom in Busch Student Center. 

Sons of Lwala

Fred Ochieng’, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and his brother Milton Ochieng’, M.D., will deliver the 2018 Atlas Keynote Address, “Sons of Lwala: Honoring the Dreams of Our Parents.” Photo by Maggie Rotermund

The Lwala Community Alliance is now the largest provider of health services in Western Kenya, serving a population of more than 30,000 people. In opened in 2007. The Alliance's main focus is health care, it also has multidimensional programs in education, economic development and public health outreach. 

The Ochieng' brothers' talk will focus on the work - both on their part and on the part of the community - that went into building a successful community alliance.

"We also want to stress that we started this a college students," Fred Ochieng' said. "We did this while we were young. I think we want to tell students that they can do something. It can be a small something, but you can always do something."

Lwala Community Hospital

The Lwala Community Hospital provides primary care, maternal and reproductive health services, and HIV care and treatment. Staffed by Kenyan clinicians, the facility cares for nearly 50,000 patient visits each year. Malaria, respiratory infections, parasites, diarrhea, HIV, and TB are among the most common illnesses treated in Lwala. 

In Migori County, where Lwala is located, HIV rates are 16-20 percent, triple the Kenyan national average, according to Alliance statistics. In Lwala's hospital, more than 1,200 community members receive ongoing HIV care and treatment.

Infant and maternal mortality rates in Migori County are also high. However, in 2017 Lwala Community Alliance achieved a 64 percent reduction in child mortality, a 97 percent rate of women giving birth at a health facility with a skilled nurse and virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

A team of community health workers recruit and enroll pregnant women in the service area to participate in maternal, neonatal and child health care. Through clinical and public health initiatives, Lwala has reduced the under-5 mortality rate in its catchment area to nearly one-third of the regional rate. 

Public Health Outreach

  • Youth Peer Provider (YPP): The program addresses the high rates of teen pregnancy and the difficulty young people have in accessing health services. A team of youth health workers, trained to reach adolescent peers with sexual and reproductive health information, then refer them to the health facility for services.

  • Health clubs in local schools and youth-only clinics educate youth and improve accessibility of contraceptives.

  • WASH: Lwala trains community members in water, sanitation and hygiene practices (WASH) practices. The curriculum explains the causes of water borne illness, techniques for water treatment, latrine building and provides skills for community mobilization. With partner support the Alliance has also provided clean water access and sanitation facilities to 13 local schools.

Economic Development

  • Agricultural Training: Lwala provides training in organic farming techniques. A demonstration garden on the hospital grounds provides hands-on agricultural training to local farmers. The vegetables grown in the hospital garden are supplied to patients and staff and also sold in the community. More than 1,650 community members have been trained to date.
  • New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative: In 2009, Grace Ochieng’, sister to Milton and Fred, began a project with female tailors in the Lwala community. This sewing cooperative employs local women. With partner support, the co-op produces school uniforms and reusable cloth menstrual pads to distribute to local school girls as incentives to stay in school.

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Milton Ochieng’, M.D., left, a physician at Progress West Hospital, and his brother Fred Ochieng’, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, speak during a 2017 Grand Rounds presentation at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. Photo by Maggie Rotermund

A Father's Dream

Milton and Fred are the second- and third-born children of teachers  Margaret and Erastus Ochieng’s six children. Both attended Alliance High School in Kikuyu, Kenya, Dartmouth College and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, with Milton graduating from Vanderbilt in 2008 and Fred in 2010.

To pay for Milton's airfare to the United States, the village sold chickens, goats, and cows. "In Lwala village, you really don't belong to your parents, you belong to everybody," Milton said. 

The Alliance was a dream of their father. Together with his sons, he wished to build a clinic to improve health care in Lwala, where life expectancy hovers around 40.

Margaret and Erastus Ochieng' both lost their fight with AIDS while Fred and Milton were still in school in the U.S. Determined to realize their father's dream, they juggled medical school with planning, fundraising and networking. 

Fred Ochieng' is currently pursuing a cardiovascular medicine fellowship training at Saint Louis University. He will head to Harvard University for a Global Health Equity and Research fellowship where he will, in part, train health workers in African nations on cardiac screenings in order to better diagnose heart failure.

"I'll spend two months in Boston and the rest of the year in Sub-Saharan Africa," he said. "There has been great work on reducing morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. We need to also focus on reducing deaths from chronic illness."

Milton Ochieng' is a gastroenterologist with the BJC Medical Group at Progress West Hospital, having completed his gastroenterology fellowship at Brown University and internal medicine at Washington University/Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO. He and his wife, Laura, live in St. Louis with their two daughters, Ma’lee and Madeleine. 

"Honoring a Father's Dream: Sons of Lwala," a documentary about the Ochieng' brothers' work will be shown at 8 p.m. Monday, April 9, in Busch Student Center 251 AB. Watch the trailer here

A private reception with the Drs. Ochieng' will be held immediately following the Keynote Address. An R.S.V.P. is required. Space is limited.

The eighteenth annual Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week begins Friday, April 6 and runs through Saturday, April 14. Events and activities held throughout the week are free and open to the St. Louis community. The theme for Atlas Week is “From Broken Walls, We Build Bridges: Out of Conflict Rises Community.”

The Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week Program launched in Spring of 2001 as a way to recognize the international dimension of Saint Louis University's academic programs and to celebrate SLU's role in international education and service in light of our Jesuit tradition.


Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place. For more information, visit slu.edu.