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Medical Missionary Who Helped Build Karanda Hospital Dies (91)

Karanda Mission Hospital
Karanda Mission Hospital

ROLAND Russell Stephens, the medical missionary who worked hard to bring Karanda Mission hospital to where it is today has died at the age of 91.

Dr Stephens died on the 14th of April at home in Springfield, Ohio.

He had recently moved to Ohio to be near his grandchildren, having lived for most of his working life in Berrien Springs and at Karanda Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe.

Roland was born Jan. 24, 1930, in Elmhurst, Ill. to Mary G. (Thompson) and Russell William Stephens. At the age of 4 he moved to a farm near Lakeview, Mich., where he graduated from Lakeview High School in 1947.

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He graduated from Bob Jones University in 1951, from the University of Illinois with a master’s degree 1952, and from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1956. Following an internship in Lansing, Mich., Roland entered a surgical residency at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. After finishing his residency he joined a medical group at Berrien General Hospital, a group that was soon to become the Southwestern Medical Clinic. He went on to become a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. During his career he was honoured for his medical and missionary work by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare/Zimbabwean Government in 2013, by the Medical and Dental Society in 2014, receiving the David Stewart Memorial Reward for missionary service, and by the American College of Surgeons in 2018, receiving the Surgical Humanitarian of the Year reward.

On June 8, 1951, Roland married Kathleen Harriet Hoff and their family was blessed with four sons: Mark, Daniel, Brian and Joel. In 1962, the Stephens family left for Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe, Africa) where Roland was a medical missionary at the Gunderson-Horness Mission Hospital (now Karanda Mission Hospital) until 1978.

Roland’s family returned to the USA and Roland continued to work with the Southwestern Medical Clinic while the liberation struggle continued on in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. When he retired from SWMC in 1995 he returned to Karanda Mission Hospital, joining his son Daniel, who was now a general surgeon and medical director of Karanda. During the interval between 1978-1995 he worked one year at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya and did other short term trips, including trips to Rwanda and Bangladesh. Roland and Kathy worked at Karanda Mission Hospital until 2013 when he entered final retirement at the age of 83.-ZBC