The Medical Mission
Richard Sacra, MD

Richard Sacra, MDFor more than two decades Dr. Rick Sacra has served with SIM, an international Christian mission organization, as a medical missionary in Liberia, West Africa. He has cared for the sick at the Eternal Love Winning Africa (ELWA) Hospital in Liberia through years of civil war, reconstruction and the Ebola epidemic.

Dr. Sacra grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts and graduated from Brown University in 1984 with a degree in biochemistry. He earned his doctor of medicine degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester in 1989 and completed a family medicine residency program in Bristol, Tennessee. He is currently a Family Medicine Faculty Physician at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and divides his time between Massachusetts and Liberia.

Dr. Sacra began his career in Liberia in 1995, in the midst of the Liberian civil war. After he and his family evacuated during an outbreak of fighting in Monrovia in 1996, he returned in 1997 to help re-open ELWA Hospital, which had been looted and vandalized. From 1998-2010, Dr. Sacra lived and worked in Liberia full time with his wife and three sons, directed the medical staff at ELWA Hospital and taught medical students at the University of Liberia Medical School. When they began to see patients with HIV and AIDS, he initiated a program at the hospital to provide treatment, education and support to those who were living with HIV.

In September 2014, he contracted Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia, even though he was not treating known Ebola patients at the time. Dr. Sacra was evacuated by air ambulance to the University of Nebraska's Biocontainment Unit in Omaha. Along with ICU level supportive care, he was given an experimental drug, and blood serum from his colleague, Dr. Kent Brantly, who was infected before Sacra. He was released after 20 days when his blood tested negative for the Ebola virus.

After he was Ebola free, full recovery took several months. Dr. Sacra experienced a respiratory infection, muscular degeneration, and eye inflammation (uveitis) in those months. Ebola survivors in Africa are battling such challenges too, without adequate healthcare and support.

Dr. Sacra returned to his medical work in Liberia just three and half months later, in January of 2015. His long term desire is to train Liberian Family Practice physicians, because he says that "even if Ebola is finished in West Africa, if we don't continue to strengthen the health system there, they're going to be vulnerable to some other devastating disease."

The Global Medical Missions Hall of Fame is honored to induct Dr. Sacra with the Class of 2016.