By Mary Catherine Karcich, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Hudson resident Dr. Brian Lisse has spent over 10 years traveling to Malawi, a poverty-stricken country located in southeast Africa. He established the nonprofit organization Bridges to Malawi with a mission to help the lives of those less fortunate who are suffering from sickness, disease and famine.
For as long as he can remember, Lisse wanted to work in the medical field. His grandfather worked as a doctor as well as a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. Lisse began his undergraduate career at Williams College. He moved on to Georgetown University for medical school, followed by the University of Massachusetts for his internship and residency. Since then, he has worked as a primary care doctor and in emergency departments.
While Lisse aspired to be like his grandfather, the difference was that he wanted to bring his work outside of the United States. His journey abroad originally began with the Nicaragua Elective. After partnering with Bridges to Community, the organization traveled to Nicaragua and set up rural clinics where hundreds of patients were seen each day.
As time moved on, Nicaragua began to see positive changes. There was regular running water and electricity, and the economy even picked up, though it still remained an issue. However, due to such progress, Lisse felt he could bring his help elsewhere, describing it as wanting “something more desperate.” He was always drawn to working in Africa, and after he was put in touch with the right people, Malawi became his next destination.
Lisse, along with a group of medical students and other healthcare providers, make an annual trip to Malawi. There, they provide medical care and medical knowledge to improve the health and well being of the Malawi community. The organization and its team have helped to fight malnutrition and famine, increase family incomes, and protect the people of Malawi from malaria through their Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) exercise.
Bridges to Malawi has received generous donations from local Rotary and Lions clubs. They raise money every year at the Bolton Fair, which also provides a way to bring awareness to their mission. When remaining funds are needed, Lisse pays out of his own pocket.
Spending time in Malawi and with its people has exposed Lisse to a perspective he hopes others will take on. He wants people in America to realize how silly having a materialistic life can be, something that may be overlooked until one sees the lives of those in a place like Malawi.
“These people having nothing, yet they are so much happier than we are,” he said. “Americans are never satisfied.”
Lisse has received positive feedback about Bridges to Malawi. People are always asking him how they can contribute or get involved. He noted that parents have come to him saying what a life changing experience their son or daughter had, and medical students comment that it was the most amazing experience of their lives.
“There’s something that really shifts in you when you help people who are dirt poor,” Lisse said. “You feel like you’ve really accomplished something.”
Along with his organization, Lisse also created a free health education and services clinic called the Sharewood Project in Malden, which will be celebrating 20 years in February. He also spends time helping out at the Agape Soup Kitchen in Hudson with his wife. Currently, Lisse works in the ER at the Nashoba Valley Medical Center.