Two weeks ago, Jack Dausman (Nyumbani USA Board Member) and myself had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Stephen Nicholas, Associate Dean of Admissions, at Columbia Medical Center’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. We first featured Dr. Nicholas in a post back in April, so the name may sound familiar.
Back in April, we wrote about the visit of Stephen and his colleague Dean Christian Stohler to Nyumbani’s programs in Kenya. The pair was in Kenya for the East Africa Oral Health Summit, which brought together over 100 leaders in oral health. We covered their visit and the summit in our previous post, but during our research we also learned that Dean Nicholas had been a follower of Nyumbani for many years and even knew our founder, Father D’Agostino. We knew we had to learn more, thus prompting our conversation two weeks ago. Here is what we learned:
Stephen Nicholas grew up in Wyoming and after attending medical school at University of Colorado, moved to New York to work as a physician. He worked as a doctor in Harlem Hospital where he came face to face with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York. At the time, Harlem had the highest mother-to-baby transfer rate in the country. After treating numerous children and infants with HIV/AIDS (and seeing many die), his mission became clear: prevention and treatment of pediatric AIDS, a mission very similar to that of Father D’Agostino.
In response to the overflow of HIV/AIDS children in New York’s hospitals, who foster care or family members were reluctant to care for, Nicholas, in collaboration with the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, helped found Incarnation Children’s Center(ICC), a residency for these children constructed in an old convent and staffed by Catholic nuns. It its early days, Father D’Agostino visited Incarnation with a mutual friend of Nicholas, David Pincus. Nicholas remembers Father D’Ag showing up on the ICC’s doorstep one day, eager to learn more about New York’s first home for pediatric AIDS patients. Not long after his visit to ICC and introduction to Nicholas, Father D’Ag was in Kenya founding Nyumbani, a home reminiscent of the children’s home in Harlem.
Throughout the years, Nicholas and Father D’Ag, kept in touch, sharing their pediatric AIDS work, in Dominican Republic and Kenya respectively. Nicholas visited the Nyumbani programs for the first time last year and was blown away by the success and extent of the organization. As he told us, Father D’ag took the idea of ICC and grew it “one hundredfold” into Nyumbani and all its programs.
Now, Nicholas has been working on a new initiative concerning oral health uniting minds from Columbia’s Medical, Dental, Nursing, and Public Health programs. They have had a focus on Kenya, where there are less than 1,000 dentists for a population of 44 million. Their summit in March, looked to identify the missing links on oral health in Kenya. Nicholas and Columbia’s initiative also looks to aid Nyumbani’s oral health both preventatively and educationally. This summer, a group of Columbia students are living in Nyumbani Village to observe oral health in Kitui and identify possible intervention points. We are grateful for this partnership with Nicholas and Columbia’s Oral Health Initiative and are exciting to see what work can be done!
It was a pleasure to speak with Dr. Stephen Nicholas and we want to thank him so much for sharing his Nyumbani story and background in pediatric HIV/AIDS! He is a treasured friend of Nyumbani!