The Schweitzer album; a portrait in words and pictures.: Anderson, Erica: Books

Alas! None of us—including the great people we talk about in this book—are perfect. We are human and we all have flaws. Trouble is, when a person is famous and highly acclaimed like Albert Schweitzer was, it shows more.  It kind of dampens the good story we’d like to tell. But we must stay truthful, with compassionate honesty while celebrating the good in the person as a whole. Wouldn’t we ourselves like to have the good parts of ourselves celebrated?

The Schweitzer Album, written and illustrated by Erica Anderson is a beautiful book which I enjoyed in the way a child might. Pictures of people in colourful Gabonese dress, young children playing among the huts, and animals everywhere. The book was a major resource for this story. But when one looks more critically, complaints about hygiene and sanitation are understandable.

Schweitzer has also been criticized for being paternalistic towards the staff and not accepting the local African people as equals. However, though this has become unacceptable in today’s culture, the era he lived in was marked by colonialism, paternalism and racist views.

Nevertheless, Dr. Schweitzer was a well-intentioned doctor who gave fifty years of his life to practicing medicine in this remote area where few of his colleagues would have dared to come. He was there to serve the unending rush of people who desperately needed medical care. Where would they have been without him?


In 2013, the Centennial year of the Schweitzer Hospital, it was still going strong. There was a staff of 260 doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and research assistants. They treat 20,000 patients a year and the hospital still retains the intimacy of a small village. Children run barefoot through corrugated iron clinic buildings, women hang clothes to dry on wash lines, and African music booms from giant speakers. “The hospital has a special place in our hearts. Patients feel comfortable here and are more likely to accept the treatment we give them”, said Sylvie Balla, a maternity nurse at the hospital.

Attached to the hospital is a world-renowned tropical disease research center which specializes in assessing new drugs and vaccines. “Almost all anti-malaria medicines on the market today have been evaluated here,” Ayota Akim Adegnika, an infectious disease researcher at the center, tells The Lancet. “In fact the Albert Schweitzer hospital, in one way or another, has been involved in every new development in the war against malaria in the past 30 years.”[1]

[1] Hektoen International,

This has been Part 39 of the Series A Life Worth Living. Read Part 40 – A Ministry of Service