People of AMPATH: Sarah Ellen and Joe Mamlin

When Joe Mamlin, MD, retired from Wishard Memorial Hospital in 2000, he and Sarah Ellen Mamlin made a one-year commitment to return to the IU-Kenya partnership in Eldoret that they had helped to establish a decade earlier. One year turned into 20, the IU-Kenya partnership became AMPATH, and this month Joe and Sarah Ellen returned to Indiana.

The celebration on March 28 in Eldoret featured several performances and tributes.

The celebration on March 28 in Eldoret featured several performances and tributes.

Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin were celebrated in song, dance and gifts.

Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin were celebrated in song, dance and gifts.

Their departure from Kenya was commemorated with several celebrations to recognize their two decades of service. Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), Moi University School of Medicine and dozens of colleagues hosted a celebration on March 28 featuring both dignitaries and former patients sharing tributes to the Mamlins and their life-saving work. The Mamlins were honored through song, dance and gifts.

Dr. Mamlin served as the Executive Field Director for AMPATH from 2000-2012 and Field Director for Clinical Care since. He is widely known for his early advocacy for antiretroviral medications to treat HIV+ patients in Kenya. Since treating his first Kenyan HIV+ patient in 2000, Dr. Mamlin and his Kenyan colleagues have provided care to more than 200,000 HIV+ patients at MTRH and a network of health facilities throughout western Kenya.

The staff, families and patients at Sally Test Child Life Center celebrate with Sarah Ellen Mamlin.

The staff, families and patients at Sally Test Child Life Center celebrate with Sarah Ellen Mamlin.

As importantly, Dr. Mamlin’s recognition that food scarcity and a lack of economic resources were essential contributing factors to the HIV epidemic led to a partnership with the World Food Programme and the development of community Group Integrated Saving and Health Empowerment (GISHE) groups. These groups provide economic education and opportunity to their members through savings and lending programs as well as entrepreneurial and agricultural initiatives. More than 1,900 of these groups now exist with an average of 20 members each.

Dr. Mamlin also became a leading visionary in AMPATH’s Population Health strategy that involves the development of a comprehensive care system, expanded enrollment in the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and growth of economic empowerment opportunities. His work on this strategy will continue from his new office at the IU Center for Global Health in Indianapolis.

Mrs. Mamlin’s contributions to the Sally Test Child Life Center and broader child life program in Kenya are similarly innovative and impactful. Mrs. Mamlin is the founder of the center that provides children and their families with opportunities for play, distraction, medical preparation and procedural support during hospital stays. Mrs. Mamlin’s tireless mentorship and leadership are responsible for the growth and success of the child life program.

The staff, patients and families honored Mrs. Mamlin with a celebration before her departure as well. In honoring Mrs. Mamlin, the staff said, “We thank Sarah Ellen Mamlin for the hard work and sacrifice she gave in the development of the only child life program in Kenya and probably Africa. Her contribution is irreplaceable. Thank you for mentoring and creating a strong Kenyan child life team that will bring change in lives of Kenyan children and their caregivers during hospitalization. We’re glad you are retiring, but disheartened as well. We will miss you greatly but wish you the best on your retirement.”

One of Dr. Mamlin’s patients, Hellen Achieng, is also a child life worker and provided a moving tribute to the Mamlins which included:

“Theirs is a story of passion, love and sacrifice that can only be told from heart to heart. There could never be enough paper and ink to summarize the gratitude of people who felt robbed of health but are now wrapped in the warm care of AMPATH. The impact of child life on the lives of the little children whose hopes and dreams the Mamlins have touched through child life and AMPATH program is a story you cannot tell in a minute. I wanted to find words memorable enough to sink my gratitude into their hearts but I couldn’t.

I searched and I couldn’t quite find the words. You see there is no way you can tell the story of AMPATH and child life without getting attached. It becomes so personal. Restoring human dignity and changing a frown into a smile is a story worth celebrating.

Thank you Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin, to us you are not just founders of organizations that have helped rekindle the light that was almost going out in our lives, and the lives of our people. You are the family that God chose for us, we will always have you in our hearts just as you had us in your big hearts all through this journey. Thank you for making broken wings fly again.”

If you would like to contribute a memory or photograph to a book for the Mamlins, please visit:

Photo credits: Raymond Yego and Artistic Photography