Local doctor honored for missions work in West Africa

Local doctor honored for missions work in West Africa

Dr. Thomas Mancini, of Pawtucket, center, with his wife, Dianne, and son Chris last year in front of the clinic in Sokode, which is part of Clinics of Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by Mancini. When Mancini retires, Chris will take over the clinics.

PAWTUCKET – When he’s not seeing patients in Rhode Island, Dr. Thomas Mancini, a podiatrist who lives in Pawtucket, is traveling to Togo, West Africa, where he founded Clinics of Hope, a nonprofit organization that to date has opened seven medical clinics.

For his medical missionary work, Mancini, who practices in East Greenwich and North Providence and is a member of the Rhode Island Podiatric Medical Association, received the 2019 American Podiatric Medical Association Humanitarian Award.

“I truly am honored,” Mancini, who received the award in March at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., told The Breeze. “I was kind of overwhelmed. It’s never my intention to do anything to elevate me. I do it to share my faith with the people there.”

“We applaud Dr. Mancini for his selfless dedication to podiatric medicine and surgery,” APMA President Dr. David Edwards said. “This award showcases his tireless effort to provide outstanding care to patients in need.”

Last Saturday, April 27, Mancini spoke about building Clinics for Hope, and how he helps Rhode Islanders, at the Surgical Pearls by the Sea conference in Newport.

“Receiving this award has opened a lot of doors for me,” Mancini said. “It’s an opportunity to help the work continue and expand.”

In 1988, Mancini graduated from what’s now called Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia. Since the late 1990s, he’s dedicated his time to providing medical care to people in desperate need – but he said he was reluctant to make the first trip to Togo.

In 1998, Mancini’s pastor at New Hope Christian Church in Swansea, Mass., a non-denominational Christian church, encouraged him to travel to Togo as part of a missionary organization called Pioneers-Togo.

When he first arrived, he said, “I wan’t happy to be there. Once we finally started doing clinics, I realized how great the need was. I realized how much help you can give these people with very little supplies.”

When Mancini returned from Togo, he ended up at Kent County Hospital to be treated for malaria.

“I was looking around at all the modern medicine we have and thinking if I was in Togo, I’d be dead,” he said, adding that it compelled him to want to return and help.

“I couldn’t wait to go back to Togo,” he said. “People thought I was crazy.”

For five years, he led teams of health-care professionals on volunteer missions.

“As Christians, we believe there’s more than what we’re living now. We share that with people who are in a real hopeless environment,” he said.

In 2003, he was approached by two village chiefs who asked for his help in establishing medical clinics for their remote villages. He founded Clinics of Hope with his colleague Deb Motta, a nurse, and has visited Togo more than 30 times to treat patients and establish new clinics.

Mancini travels there at least once a year usually for two weeks at a time, he said.

Six of the clinics are located “in the bush” and run on solar power and don’t have running water, he said. The largest clinic is located in Sokode and has a bigger staff, internet access, a lab, and x-ray and ultrasound machines. Togo’s population in 2017 was 7.8 million.

“It’s the first line of health care for people who live in those villages,” Mancini said. “One hundred percent of children in those villages are born in those clinics usually.”

Mancini said they open clinics when they receive enough funding, adding that it costs approximately $5,000 to open and run a clinic for one year.

Clinics of Hope trains and hires Togolese nationals to staff the clinics, Mancini said.

The people they help at the clinics are happy and thankful, Mancini said, which motivates the staff.

Mancini is planning a Clinics of Hope Foot Health Center to be opened in the capital of Togo in the fall of 2020. The foot center will focus primarily on diabetic foot care, limb salvage, and tropical ulcers.

“A lot of stuff I see I can’t treat in the clinics,” he said. “I study and learn, but my specialty is feet.”

“In recognition of Tom’s achievement, RIPMA will be making a substantial donation to Clinics of Hope. Additionally, I will be joining many of our members in giving a personal donation to this worthy cause,” said Dr. Michael Reuter, president, RIMPA. 

In addition to establishing Clinics of Hope, Mancini has served as a medical team leader for the Haiti Charity Hope Foundation and has volunteered with the Rhode Island Free Clinic.

Mancini, who’s lived in Pawtucket for most of his life, said the “initial drive (to pursue medicine) came as early as high school” when he was a student at Saint Raphael Academy.

His wife Dianne and his children, Chris, Tommy, and Marissa, have been very supportive, Mancini said, and Chris, a registered nurse, will take over Clinics of Hope when his father retires.

“There are hundreds of villages desperate for clinics right now,” Mancini said. “Our vision going forward is to continue to open small clinics in the bush.”

Dr. Thomas Mancini, of Pawtucket, left, received the 2019 American Podiatric Medical Association Humanitarian Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in March. With Mancini is Dennis Frisch, immediate past president of the American Podiatric Medical Association. Mancini was recognized for his medical missionary work, including founding Clinics of Hope.
Dr. Thomas Mancini, of Pawtucket, holds a young patient at his medical clinic in Napimbo, Togo, West Africa, in 2013. Mancini said the child likely had malaria and anemia. The clinic is one of seven in Togo that is part of Clinics of Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by Mancini in 2003.