U.S. Ambassador Michael Hammer, newly confirmed to his post in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visited Atlanta in September for the annual Caring for Congo gala, a fundraiser in support of former Atlanta Hawks’ center Dikembe Mutombo’s hospital in the country.
According to a wrapup of the event published by the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Mr. Hammer announced that the U.S. Embassy in the DRC would award 10 scholarships for physicians from Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital to study English in Kinshasa, the capital city.
The foundation also received a $10,000 grant from the embassy to begin a telemedicine program at the hospital.
Some have criticized Mr. Mutombo’s work, which he has said was initially doubted in the late 1990s by U.S. officials and the DRC government. Others say the hospital caters to the rich in a country with a minuscule average income. The retired seven-foot basketball star contends that Africans deserve state-of-the-art health care and that serving the well-off helps the hospital offset the cost of providing care to the poor. He has Global Atlanta that he personally bankrolled $24 million of the $40 million required to get it off the ground.
Atlanta galas have become a consistent contributor to the hospital’s financial health. More than 400 people attended the star-studded affair, also graced by Grammy-winning musical artists and other former NBA players. WSB news anchor Jovita Moore served as the mistress of ceremonies.
The event came two months before the U.S. State Department this week issued a statement calling for “credible” elections scheduled for Dec. 23, in which President Joseph Kabila is scheduled to relinquish power after 17 years in office.
Read more about Mr. Mutombo here: Basketball Was NBA Star Mutombo’s Ticket to Global Impact