In connection with NFW’s biomedical project, which began in 2007, our organization began to look for a biomedical technician to help us implement the goals of the project. Rob Dickinson, a native of Zimbabwe and resident of South Africa, was recommended to us, and for a decade worked under contract to provide personalized training, expert mentoring, skilled repair, and prodigious knowledge as he made five extended visits to Nigeria for us. I had the great privilege of meeting and working with Rob in Nigeria in the spring of 2016. I found him to be a delightful and caring person of great honesty, integrity, and intelligence, with wide-ranging interests and a great sense of humor.
NFW, however, was only a tiny part of Rob’s life. He spent decades of service in the medical industry – helping numerous people all over the world. From helping persons with cleft palates with Operation Smile, seeing to all medical equipment and training (among other things) with Gradian Health, being involved with World Health projects, lecturing at universities around the world, giving his time and knowledge to help build a better medical industry in remote and undeveloped countries, helping with Orbis and persons with all forms of eye and sight problems – Rob gave his all. He did everything quietly and was humble about his work, always saying that one needs to just do their bit and help where they can, and to do so with love. He dedicated his life to helping people, and he did so never wanting recognition or praise. His work did, however, receive recognition. Rob was the recipient most recently of the Robert L. Morris Humanitarian Award. The award in the picture above was provided by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) Foundation. He was the author of many technical papers and in demand as a speaker and teacher in his field.
Rob’s hobby was photographing butterflies and dragonflies, and this he did at every free moment, venturing into the bush with his long lens whenever there was a travel break or vehicle breakdown. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the insects he photographed.
He was full of stories from his youth in Zimbabwe and war experiences there, and his world-spanning travels, and was an engaging conversationalist.
Rob was perfect for the job we gave him. He related well to the Nigerians he trained, and was not picky about his comfort or living conditions. He was very frank when he saw something that needed correcting, but his great personality and ready friendship permitted him that frankness, and he often produced results where one would not have thought them possible.
It was a great shock to us all when Rob was diagnosed in 2017 with melanoma and complications from that cancer. He passed away in 2018, but is remembered and appreciated with fondness by the people he trained and those with whom he worked to make the world a better place.
—by Baker Hill
See related article: Friends, Family Mourn Loss of ‘True Role Model’