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ELCA Missionary Receives American Medical Association Honor

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Dr. Mark L. Jacobson, a medical missionary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has been awarded the 2013 Dr. Nathan Davis International Award in Medicine from the American Medical Association. "This is indeed a fantastic honor, and we take great pleasure in having our decades of service in Tanzania noticed and honored by the wider medical community," said Jacobson.

Jacobson and his wife, Linda, have been providing health care services and overseeing medical training in Tanzania since 1985 at the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. "For me personally, (the honor) is more a recognition of the work that Linda and I have done together, and it particularly affirms the work and commitment of an entire team of professionals, supporters and faithful coworkers in these many efforts. It is humbling to realize that many years of serving among the poor has ultimately been respected and profoundly honored by the profession," he said. Jacobson's work has included transforming rural dispensaries into Selian Lutheran Hospital in Arusha, Tanzania, which encompasses 10 buildings, 250 employees and 12 physicians. He has also led the planning, funding and construction of the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, which is recognized as a leading health institution in the country. The hospital and medical center provides care to more than 150,000 patients per year. Jacobson started a school to train medical officers, began a nursing school scheduled to open in March 2013 and a surgical residency program to start in 2014. Jacobson has provided medical care for thousands of people living in poverty in East Africa. He started specialized outreach services that have reached thousands of women suffering from obstetric fistulas and children with orthopedic problems. Jacobson also initiated hospice and palliative care for HIV and AIDS patients in Tanzania, and is a founding member and chair of the Board of the African Palliative Care Association, which now promotes hospice and palliative care in over 30 African countries.

"The American Medical Association has discovered what we have known for many years; your exemplary service, unconditional commitment, and selfless giving to the Massai people and the people of Tanzania," wrote the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for global ministries at ELCA churchwide ministries, in a congratulatory letter to the Jacobsons. "The visible accomplishments of your work are outstanding," wrote Malpica Padilla. "However, your greatest accomplishment has been the Christian witness that you and Linda have given to your children, raising them to be good stewards and servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ." The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 143 member churches in 79 countries worldwide.

The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States. Information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania is available at and more about the work of Jacobson is featured at