Kintaudi, Leon

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Leon Kintaudi



Dr. Leon Kintaudi, also known as Ngoma Miezi Kintaudi or Leon Ngoma M. Kintaudi, was the medical director of non-profit healthcare organizations and projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He worked tirelessly to reestablish basic healthcare in the war-torn country. Between 1998 and 2006 an estimated four million people died in the DRC, either as a direct result of the fighting or from disease and malnutrition. Kintaudi was named a 2005 Global Health Hero at the Time Magazine Global Health Summit in New York City in November of 2005.

Ngoma Miezi (Leon) Kintaudi was born 150 miles from Kinshasa in Zaire, now the DRC. As a teenager Kintaudi watched helplessly as his father died of acute appendicitis because there was no doctor at the local hospital. He determined he would become a physician. As his country sank into turmoil, Kintaudi's family sent him to study in the United States.

Kintaudi worked his way through college, graduating from the University of La Verne in La Verne, California, in 1974 with a double major in biology and chemistry. After earning his medical degree Kintaudi entered private practice. Later he worked in a public health clinic in Los Angeles. Yet as he started his career in the United States, Kintaudi focused on how he might help his own country. His country erupted in civil war during the 1990s, and Kintaudi witnessed his country's struggle firsthand when he returned to visit his mother, who had refused to leave. In a University of La Verne commencement address, quoted on the Santé Rurale (SANRU) Web site, Kintaudi told his audience: "My dream was always to be part of something that would make an impact on the country of my birth."

So in the mid-1990s, at a time when droves of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa were emigrating to Europe and North America, Kintaudi moved back to Kinshasa. Initially he ran a medical residency program for the Eglise de Christ au Congo (ECC-DOM), an association of the major Protestant churches in the DRC. Fully one-half of the 40 doctors that Kintaudi trained in his first class left the country, unwilling to make do on a $30-per-month salary. Eventually Kintaudi also became director of the ECC's Department of Medical Services, with responsibility for 80 hospitals and more than 400 clinics.

In 2000 Kintaudi and the ECC approached the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for help rebuilding the DRC's shattered healthcare system. They received a five-year $25-million grant to be administered by Interchurch Medical Assistance, Inc. (IMA), a nongovernmental organization based in the United States. Kintaudi became director of the SANRU III Basic Rural Health Program, a collaborative effort of the ECC, IMA, and Programme de Santé Rurale to establish 56 decentralized health zones across the country. Another 17 ECC-managed health zones were funded by the World Bank. Additional funding was obtained through the Global Fund, corporate donors, and the development agencies of American churches. In general, a single health zone served 100,000- 150,000 people with a hospital and approximately 20 clinics run by nurses.

In addition to supporting and improving rural hospitals and clinics, Kintaudi coordinated religious, governmental, non-governmental, and corporate partners in numerous other efforts. These included the establishment of local community development groups, the training of village health and hygiene workers and traditional birth attendants, and the health education of local residents.

As of 2005, due to the efforts of Kintaudi and his collaborators, 80 percent of the children in the health zones were receiving vitamin A and vaccinations against childhood diseases, up from 27 percent in 2001. Tuberculosis detection rates jumped significantly. Hundreds of thousands of insecticide-treated bednets were distributed as part of the battle against malaria. HIV/AIDS was being addressed through education, screening, testing, counseling, and treatment. Thousands of healthcare workers and community volunteers were being trained to practice preventative and curative medicine in the most remote regions of the country. More women received family planning assistance, prenatal care, and attended childbirth. Many of the health zones obtained potable water for the first time.

Through the ECC-DOM and SANRU III, Kintaudi directed the training of thousands of doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators and helped create the school of public health at the State University at Kinshasa. But the fight to retain trained medical personnel continued.

Kintaudi conducted collaborative research assessing the effectiveness of public-health initiatives in rural Africa. He presented his findings at pan-African and international meetings of professional organizations, including the American Public Health Association. He endorsed a 2004 letter to the British medical journal the Lancet that called for an all-inclusive program to halt the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kintaudi became a recognized spokesperson for the ongoing efforts to bolster health care in the DRC. He told the Time Global Health Summit in 2005: "I am but one man standing before you today to be recognized as a global health hero, but I turn around and see thousands of Congolese heroes behind me, linking arms, linking hands with a vast network of partners around the globe that are caring for Congo." In addition to addressing the Health Summit, Kintaudi spoke to students at the Columbia University Medical School and School of Public Health. Along with other members of the SANRU leadership, he made a presentation to the Global Health Council in Washington, D.C. By 2007, Kintaudi had become especially well known for his work on behalf of women and children in the DRC.

At a Glance …

Born Ngoma Miezi Kintaudi in 1949(?) in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Education: University of La Verne, CA, BS, biology and chemistry, 1974; MD; MPH. Religion: Church of Christ.

Career: Los Angeles, CA, physician in private practice and at a public health clinic, 1980-1995(?); Eglise de Christ au Congo (ECC), Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, director of medical residency, 1995(?)-, Department of Medical Services, director, 1996(?)-; SANRU Rural Health Program, Kinshasa, DRC, medical director, 2000-.

Memberships: Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN), Nairobi, Kenya, director.

Awards: La Verne University, honorary doctorate, 2005; Time Global Health Summit Hero Award, 2005; United Nations Humanitarian Award, 2005.

Addresses: Office—Director, SANRU Rural Health Program, ECC-DOM (The Protestant Church of Congo), 75 Ave. de la Justice, Kinshasa, DR Congo.

Selected works


(With P. Derstine and F. Baer) "Faith-Based Co-Management of Health Zones and Umbrella Projects in DR Congo," American Public Health Association, 2004.

(With F. Baer) "The DR Congo Experience in Health System Development and Management," Christian Connections for International Health Conference, 2005.

"Caring for Congo," TIME Global Health Summit, November 1-3, 2005, SANRU, news/global_health_summit_pix.htm.

"FBOs and the Ministry of Health in DR Congo," Global Health Council, 2006,



Lancet, November 27-December 2, 2004, pp. 1913-1915.

Time, November 7, 2005, p. 95.


"Kintaudi Named Global Health Hero by TIME Magazine," SANRU, (July 18, 2007).

"Kintaudi Speaks at TIME Magazine Global Health Summit," IMA World Health, (July 17, 2007).

"TIME Global Health Summit Heroes," Time, (July 17, 2007).

"Time Magazine Honors ULV Alumnus Dr. Leon M. Kintaudi as a Global Health Hero," University of La Verne: Voice, (July 17, 2007).