Tshibambe Nathanael Tshimbombu (TNT) grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), leaving for undergraduate and medical training in the United States (U.S) amid political unrest. In the DRC, he attended College La Fontaine where he graduated valedictorian with a degree in Latin and philosophy, then enrolled in Lovanium School of Medicine but withdrew in his third year – due to political unrest. In the U.S, he attended Georgia State University – Perimeter College (GSU-GPC), where he obtained an Associate of Science in chemistry. At GPC, TNT was an honors student and won multiple academic awards including the college’s most prestigious President’s Award. He then went on to receive a bachelor’s in Psychology at Dartmouth, and a business certification from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and currently, he is a fourth-year medical student at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine.
TNT is a certified human rights consultant who is dedicated to global health. He has been aggrieved by the healthcare disparities he has seen first-hand in his home country and has worked diligently and passionately to establish health equity through his work. He has established a philanthropic and medical enterprise serving people in need—Bonsomi (www.bonsomi.org). Through Bonsomi, TNT has leveraged philanthropy to help over 50,000 underserved African individuals, mainly women and children, receive medical care at no cost. He has taken on critical medical issues, including those stemming from lack of medical insurance, mistreatment, rape, and deadly pandemics. His compassion for those in need has always been his priority; he remains dedicated to advocacy and service to foster a vibrant, healthy, and prosperous Africa.
In recognition of his work, TNT won the 2019 DRC KinMalebo award for the best role model for Congolese youth in healthcare, which honored his devotion, diligence, genuineness, objectivity in healthcare, and his proven contribution to the well-being of the Congolese society. In 2020, he was a nominee for 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 in healthcare and entrepreneurship. In 2021, he became the recipient of the ambassador of social and development award, which honored his track record of assisting the underserved community in the DRC via philanthropy. TNT has shown a selfless leadership character that has molded him into a highly effective leader with a powerful long-range vision who is making difference in innumerable lives by targeting the reduction of health disparities.
Was she murdered? A group of medical students found the body of a 20-year-old pregnant woman near the parking lot of Lovanium School of Medicine. Investigation and autopsy revealed the young lady, who lived near campus, hailed from a poor socio-economic background and was raised by a single mother. She was a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, which led to an unwanted pregnancy. She suffered a contracted pelvis during her pregnancy but could not afford medical treatment. A traditional healer, with no formal medical training, recommended that she use an herb that healers claim can treat contracted pelvis and uterine contraction – doing so without realizing that these herbs can be deadly to some individuals. The young lady’s uterus ruptured, and she, and her unborn baby, passed away in the traditional healer’s office. The healer dumped the body near the parking lot.
I was one of the medical students who found the body. At that time, I was well aware Congolese women had been disproportionately suffering from high maternal mortality rates due to limited access to adequate health care along with high rates of violence for many years. The American Journal of Public Health even reported that 1,152 Congolese females are raped every day, 65% of whom are minors. Some of these women become pregnant and contract sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, adding more problems on top of other maternal health concerns. Despite their significant medical needs, they lack access to adequate healthcare. For this reason, some of the families rely on inefficient traditional medicines, which usually end up causing more issues in women’s health. In other cases, when mothers pass away, they leave behind orphans who end up on the streets to survive on their own. Among the orphans, those who are fortunate, get placed in orphanages; however, over the years, even orphanages became unable to take care of a large group due to financial constraints. Thus, the lack of shelter and access to healthcare constitutes a death sentence to orphans.
That day on campus, a heart-rending reality that prompted me to ensure that others do not experience the same thing. There was a need for advocacy and to promote health equity. Unfortunately, In January 2011, I was forced to place my goals on hold when my grandfather ran for president. His campaign jeopardized our family’s safety and security because of the political crisis that ensued after the election (due to the lack of sustained democracy). For this reason, I withdrew from Lovanium, left my country, and emigrated to the United States (U.S) in May of 2011.
At age 21, I arrived in a new country with no credentials and no knowledge of English, which was to become my fifth language. My initial quest to enroll in an Atlanta community college in July 2011 was denied because I did not speak a word of English. Tragically, at about the same time my father, who was also involved in the DRC’s elections, was poisoned. While he survived after medical intervention, he became weakened and was unable to support our family. I lived in my car for few months. I had joined a church community and soon my pastor learned about my struggles – parking my car at church one day, he welcomed me to his home. I then picked up two jobs: (1) day-time janitor at Grady Memorial Hospital; and (2) night-time security officer. I worked long hours to pay for English lessons and save for college. I spent four months learning English and re-applied, eventually receiving an acceptance to college in Atlanta, and transferring to Dartmouth College. After having successfully completed my undergraduate degree, I remained at Dartmouth for medical school.
Despite my unplanned departure from the DRC, I was always aggrieved by the healthcare disparities I saw firsthand and felt unsatisfied with simply becoming a physician. I wanted to do something about the problem as soon as I could. Thus, I started a non-profit called “Bonsomi”, a Lingala word for freedom, to emphasize that healthcare should be free and not a privilege for low-income families. The goal of Bonsomi leverages philanthropy to improve access to healthcare for low-income families, particularly women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, via awareness, adjustment, financial assistance, alignment, and advocacy. Additionally, Bonsomi addresses social determinants of health impacting health outcomes to reduce longstanding health inequities within African communities.
To date, via Bonsomi, I have designed, directed activities and advocated for—as well as served—women, children, and individuals who have been marginalized or stigmatized and, therefore, have targeted the reduction of health disparities. Some of the activities include but are not limited to:
Though great need still exists, I have worked selflessly, diligently, and passionately to facilitate access to healthcare for over 50,000 low incomes families in Africa. Even though I experienced the hardships of poverty and a dearth of opportunities, I strived, learned, and grew even stronger, and so did my determination to reduce health disparities and ensure that healthcare is readily available and accessible to those who cannot afford it.
Honorees selected for the Health Innovators to Watch Awards come from across the globe, representing health and healthcare innovation in traditional public health fields, research, academia, architecture, and more. In addition, innovators are intentionally diverse in backgrounds, from public health founders and co-founders, inventors, national and international leaders, directors, researchers, academicians, and curriculum developers