Call Mama Doctor

African notes of a young woman doctor

By Louise Jilek-Aall, M.D.

Book Cover


  1. On the Way to Africa
  2. Road-Users in the Bush
  3. Becoming Mama Mganga
  4. The First Safari
  5. Looking Fear in the Face
  6. Dresser Ndogo's Tragic End
  7. The Children of Ngombe
  8. Poisoning and Witchcraft: Two Fates
  9. The Epidemic
  10. Mothers
  11. The Mwali Girls
  12. Fanya Bidii -- Childbirth in the Bush
  13. The Devil's Dance
  14. Susanna the Teacher and her Liberation
  15. Simon the Wazimu
  16. The Invincible Diviner
  17. In the Shadow of a Tree
  18. My Medicine Man Colleague
  19. The Maskini Boy
  20. A Treatment Center for Kifafa
  21. Back in Europe

Call Mama Doctor is a collection of true stories based on the field notes of a young woman physician working among isolated tribes in East Africa in the early 1960's. Each of the stories introduces the reader to a different aspect of the African scene yet all belong together, unfolding a vivid image of a people's struggle for survival and security in a threatening world, and a young doctor's efforts to help them. We see the author, fresh from medical school, starting out on her African adventure as an awkward, inexperienced newcomer. She takes us on her safaris through the bush to meet the sick and frightened villagers, mothers and children, witch-doctors and missionaries. She makes “house” calls into remote areas of the jungle delivering babies, caring for victims of measles or meningitis and treating mentally disturbed as well as physically ill patients.

As a trusted physician and as a woman the author was in a unique position to gain access to secret traditions connected with the intimate sphere of family life, procreation, sickness and death. Thus she came upon the hidden victims of epilepsy and organized a clinic and shelter for these outcasts. As an outcome of her work in Africa, Dr. Jilek-Aall with her husband, Dr. Wolfgang Jilek -- hopes to mobilize international interest for the realization of an epilepsy treatment project in Tanzania.

About the Author

Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall was born in Norway. She studied medicine at the University of Zurich and did further specialized work in tropical medicine in Basel. In 1959, she went to East Africa with the intention of doing field research in tropical medicine, but served, instead, for three years as a travelling bush doctor, as medical officer with the United Nations forces in the Congo and as pediatric assistant to Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Lambarene.

Louise Jilek-Aall trained as psychiatrist at Zurich and at McGill University, Montreal, took a degree in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and has done ethnopsychiatric research in Africa, Thailand, New Guinea, Haiti, South America and among North American Indians. She now teaches in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Copyright © 1979 Louise Jilek-Aall
Reprinted with permission

See also: Summary of Dr. Louise Jilek-Aall's Epilepsy Clinic and Epilepsy Research in Mahenge, Tanzania East-Africa

to top

Internet Mental Health ( copyright © 1995-2011 by Phillip W. Long, M.D.