As he walked through campus last September, Dikembe Mutombo, all-star center for the Houston Rockets, cut a somewhat startling figure. With an impeccably tailored deep-blue suit draped over his 7-foot, 2-inch frame, Mutombo towered over his hosts like a grade-school teacher minding charges on a field trip.
He came to Yale at the invitation of Anup Patel, a second-year medical student who had heard of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation’s humanitarian work in Mutombo’s native Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Mutombo contributed $10 million for the construction of a 300-bed hospital in the capital of Kinshasa, which will open in June to provide care to the city’s poorest residents and to train its health professionals. Yale and the foundation are considering a partnership that would provide opportunities for medical students to travel to the DRC for clinical clerkships.
“I grew up poor and I never forgot where I came from,” said Mutombo, in an address at Battell Chapel. ”If I was going to do something that will carry my legacy, I wanted to make sure it was very good, that it will stop the suffering, that it will help the people that don’t have a chance to go on a plane to go to South Africa or Europe to get treatment.”