About Dr Andrew Browning
Dr Andrew Browning AM FRCOG FRANZCOG (hon)
Has been involved in the care of over 12,000 fistula patients across Africa and SE Asia and is considered an expert in his field. He was involved in establishing charities in Ethiopia and Tanzania to build and run free maternity hospitals for the poor, to prevent fistula and to train midwives in clinical skills. These charities and hospitals have overseen the safe delivery of over 80,000 women to date and trained nearly 1000 midwives in clinical skills. He founded the Barbara May Foundation in Australia to fund those hospitals.
He has been integral to starting fistula services in several African countries, has developed new surgical techniques that are now standard practice across the globe. He oversees the FIGO (International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) global fistula surgery training program as the chair of the FIGO Fistula and Genital Trauma Committee and chair of the FIGO Expert Advisory Group on Obstetric Fistula. He frequently advises the UN and WHO on fistula and related issues and he is a frequent keynote speaker at international medical conferences.
He has 57 publications, including his memoir ‘A Doctor in Africa’ as well as other books and chapters and the text book on fistula surgery co-written with Brian Hancock is distributed to all FIGO fistula trainees.
He was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to international maternal health.
Lesson 1: Be satisfied, learn contentment 09m 10s
Lesson 2: You came with nothing, you will leave with nothing 11m 22s
Lesson 3: Where your treasure is, there is your heart 15m 48s
Lesson 4: Look out not in 21m 06s
Lesson 5: Let no debt remain apart from the debt to love each other 22m 34s
Lesson 6: Love is the common language 25m 24s
Lesson 7: Lead by coming last, being a servant 27m 49s
Lesson 8: Be Open to Criticism 31m 40s
Lesson 9: There is nothing new under the sun 34m 17s
Lesson 10: All is empty if all that we see is all that there is 39m 51s
Andrew Browning – There is nothing new under the sun
[00:00:08] Jeffery Wang: Hello, and welcome to the podcast 10 lessons it took me 50 years to learn, where we talked to inspirational leaders from all over the world to dispense wisdom for life, business, and career. In order to provide you shortcuts to excellence.
My name is Jeffery Wang, the founder of Professional Development Forum and your host today. This podcast is sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which helps diverse young professionals of any age find fulfillment in the modern workplace.
Today we’re joined by Dr. Andrew Browning. Andrew is a distinguished Australian obstetrician, who has spent his entire career volunteering in Africa as a medical missionary. He has cared for over 12,000 women across Africa and Southeast Asia.
He helped establish charities in Ethiopia and Tanzania to build free maternity hospitals for the poor, train midwives and prevent fistula. These charities and hospitals have overseen the safe delivery of over 80,000 women to date and has trained nearly 1000 midwives. He founded the Barbara May foundation in Australia to fund those hospitals.
He is an expert in obstetric fistula. He has developed new surgical techniques that are now standard practice across the globe. He advisers the United Nations and the WHO on fistula and related issues. And is a frequent keynote speaker at international medical conferences. He oversees FIGO the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists global fistula surgery training program, he serves as a chair of FIGO’s fistula and genital trauma committee and expert advisory group on obstetric fistula. He has over 57 publications in medical literature. And in fact, the textbook on fistula surgery, which he’s co-written with Brian Hancock is distributed to all FIGO fistula trainees.
Andrew has recently written a memoir titled “A doctor in Africa”, sharing his story about working in remote locations and overcoming harsh conditions while transforming the lives of countless women. He was awarded a member of the order of Australia for his services to international maternal health, congratulations for living such an outstanding life of service.
And thank you so much for being with us today.
[00:02:23] Andrew Browning: Thank you very much for inviting me.
[00:02:25] Jeffery Wang: Before we jump into the lessons, I must ask. And I’m sure this is on the mind of everyone that’s listening. What is obstetric fistula and why is it such a terrible or condition?
[00:02:35] Andrew Browning: I think that’s probably easiest to, uh, teach you what an obstetric fistula is.
If I tell you a story. Of one of my patients. And I’ve, as you said, very kindly in your introduction, I’ve cared for over 12,000 women with obstetric fistula, and personally operated on well over 7,000 of them now. I’m just about to go back to Africa. We’ve got well over a hundred more patients waiting to operate.
I’ll tell you the story of a patient called Ngolo. It was one of my patients in East Africa. Uh, one of my last patients that I treated before, moving back to Australia where I’m based now, and I commute back to Africa. Um, but Ngolo, lives in an area of East Africa that didn’t have any access to obstetric care or medical care.
The nearest hospital to where she lived was 120 kilometres away. They had no money, no transport, they communication. And that’s actually how the vast majority of people, women live around the world. Very few women live the way we do in Australia or the Western world. Um, so her situation was that she didn’t go to school.
It was no school that she could get, or there was a school, but the boys went to the school rather than the girls. And so, at a very early age, as soon as she started to have her period, she got married. And she found herself pregnant at the age of probably around 15. And she went into labour in her little mother-in-law’s hut in the village. After a full day of labour Ngolo still hadn’t delivered her child. She was one of the 5% of women all around the world, Australia, Africa, Asia, that get into what’s called obstructed labour. Meaning the baby’s just getting stuck either. The mother’s pelvis is too big or too small rather, or the baby’s head is too big for whatever reason. It’s getting stuck.
Here in the resource rich areas, we deliver in hospitals, that’s recognized, uh, the midwifes call the obstetrician. The obstetrician comes in, gets paid a ton of money to do a caesarean, everyone’s happy and they have a live baby and a safe mother, but for Ngolo, no communication, no health care, not even a Panadol.
So, another day passed. So, at the end of the two full days later, she still hadn’t delivered her child.
[00:04:48] Jeffery Wang: Wow.
[00:04:49] Andrew Browning: The husband also illiterate, he, um, was desperate to know how he could help his wife. And he had the idea that if he boiled a basin of water and put Ngolo’s feet into the boiling water, it would stimulate her uterus to contract. Of course, that didn’t work.
But he did this for two more days, at the end of four days of labour, Ngolo still hadn’t delivered her child. She was now unconscious. And unconscious on the fifth day of labour, she delivered a stillborn or dead child. It took her two days to regain consciousness, but when she did regain consciousness, he found that she was leaking uncontrollably from her bladder and also her bowel.
Because she’d been in labour for so long, the baby’s head was pressed against the bones of her pelvis and all the tissues between, the tissues, the birth canal bladder, birth canal bowel. All those tissues had its blood supply cut off and all those tissues died. So, after she delivered a stillborn child, all those dead tissues came away and she was left with a big fistula or a hole between the bladder outside wall, rectum, outside wall.
So, she leaks urine and faeces continually, she stank, she was ashamed, husband divorced her. She went to live with her mother. The mother couldn’t keep her in the house because she smelled so bad. So, she put her in a little mud hut on the edge of the family compound and unable to walk because of burns on her feet. She stayed in that little hut for 18 months.
So, it was eventually found by a mission and brought to that hospital 120 kilometres away. And there were doctors in that hospital who tried to help her, but they hadn’t been trained in fistula surgery and they operated on her three times, but it didn’t work. She was then found by our outreach workers and brought to me, to our hospital.
And, um, we operated on her. We operate on these ladies under spinal anaesthetic. It’s the safest aesthetic, it means that they’re numb from the waist down, but they’re awake during the operation. And Ngolo had so given up hope that she could ever be cured, that she just sobbed uncontrollably through the operation.
That is a devastating condition for women. And we think there’s about 2 million women in the world, still waiting for the treatment with this condition. But it’s um, one of the few operations you can do as a surgeon that will completely transform someone’s life. 40% of these ladies with a fistula are suicidal, um, universally depressed, often ostracized.
Some of them are really still loved by their, their family, their husbands, but more commonly they’re divorced and rejected. But we operated on Ngolo, and we prayed for her of course, because I think, um, doctors, there’s an old saying, I learnt as a medical student that, um, uh, God heals, and doctors get paid for it. I think it’s pretty true.
Um, but yeah, we Ngolo had tubes in her bladder for two weeks after the operation while her tissues heal and we removed those, those catheters, those tubes and. We give thanks that she was healed, and she was absolutely transformed, overjoyed. She was jumping up and down and saying, look, I can’t wait to get home.
I’m never going to meet another man. I’m never going to be married again. I get to go to school and start a new life. And so, we’re very thankful that she did start to go to school. And it’s used starting a new life and she has a new hope. So that’s what, uh, I mean, uh, obstetric fistula is, Ngolo’s story is not unusual for me.
I’ve as I said, I’ve met 12,000, over 12,000 women all with similar stories to Ngolo, heartbreaking stories. And it’s just been a delight to help them. But more importantly, we know we have to prevent them. And that’s why I started the Barbara May foundation to build hospitals. So, women can get to a hospital, uh, to deliver, have a caesarean. And so, we won’t see fistulas because we used to have them in, in Australia and America, Europe, um, um, in the 1800’s. But they’re eradicated now because a women can deliver in a hospital.
[00:08:44] Jeffery Wang: Yeah, thank you for sharing that. It’s actually really distressing to hear that still so many around the world suffer from something that we have all but eliminated and makes us realize how, um, I suppose sheltered we are from some of the harsh realities around the world.
[00:09:03] Andrew Browning: Yeah. The way we live is in the world’s minority, and the way people like Ngolo live is the world’s majority.
[00:09:10] Lesson 1 Be Satisfied. Learn Contentment.
[00:09:10] Jeffery Wang: So, it sounds like there’s still a lot of work to do yet. All right. Well, let’s just jump straight into the lessons then. Lesson number one, be satisfied, learn contentment. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
[00:09:24] Andrew Browning: Yes. I mean, the way I’ve lived my life, um, I’ve chosen to, or inspired to live my life, I guess is, um, of one of service. And this meant that I, and my family, we lived as volunteers in Africa for 17 years. We didn’t have an income. Uh, we live by faith. We just lived by people’s donations to us. So, friends or, or churches would, would give us money.
And we lived a simple life, uh, and we had to live a simple life, but It’s um, sometimes it’s difficult. When I came back to Australia, I see all my colleagues and my friends. I mean, they’ve been very wealthy doctors and they live in wonderful houses in many cars. My car barely works, um, cars at work and they have exciting holidays.
And you do feel a little bit, um, yeah, a little bit, you covet a little bit, you’re a bit, a bit jealous of that, but then it doesn’t last long because, uh, you need to learn contentment and that’s something I’ve learned, um, during my life, during the time, there’s actually a good quote from Charles Dickens.
I can’t remember which book it’s from now. But he, he said that happiness means an income 20 pounds and expenditures, 19 pounds, 19 shillings unhappiness, misery income, 20 pounds expenditures, 20 pounds, one shilling. So, it’s just to teach you to live within your means and to have enough is relative, isn’t it? I mean if you’ve got 20 days, To spend 19 or $20, don’t spend 21. And so that’s something that we had to learn in Africa. Um, just living off people’s goodness. And we found that we just had enough to meet our daily needs, which is wonderfully reassuring. And actually, since coming back to Australia, I work for my charity now and actually have an income and I’ve took one, a lot of ’em was quite stressful for me to, to adjust, to actually having an income, oh dear, I’ve got a budget now and, um, it just, yeah, anyway, that’s all worked out in here. You learn contentment, you learned that you can’t have this. Um, and don’t, don’t seek to have those because it’s unattainable for you to just be satisfied with what you have.
[00:11:22] Lesson 2 You Came With Nothing, And You’ll Leave With Nothing
[00:11:22] Jeffery Wang: great. And so, lesson number two, you said “you came with nothing, and you’ll leave with nothing”. Can you tell us a bit more about that one?
[00:11:31] Andrew Browning: Yes. I mean, the kind of follows on from, from lesson one. I mean, I see my, my friends, um, in Australia just wealthy beyond my imagination and, and the vast majority of people anywhere in the world’s imagination. But, I mean, as a, as an obstetrician and working as a doctor, especially in places like Africa, and I’d been into places like Sierra Leone and into war-torn Congo and Somalia, South Sudan, all the, all the difficult places and you see a lot, a lot of suffering.
You see, as an obstetrician, you see the beginning and the end. I can’t remember how many babies I’ve delivered, but it is a miracle when you see this new life, this new baby take, uh, this first breath, uh, and see the delight in the mother’s eyes, or usually the delight. Sometimes they’re actually exhausted.
They can’t even raise their heads. Um, but, uh, yeah, but soon, soon they come around and they received their baby of joy this new life, but then you also see the end of life. Um, I’ve been, um, with people trying to resuscitate them. Um, I remember one particularly one gorgeous, gorgeous young, young girl. she had a, an elective operation, uh, for fertility and she had an extremely rare complication of, of clotting after the operation and, um, got out of bed and she collapsed dead, and I spent a long time trying to resuscitate her.
And, um, we couldn’t, it was, it was, it was hopeless. Um, she, there was no way anyone anywhere could bring her back. And, um, yeah, you just see this, this gorgeous young person, one minute full of life, full of breathing, um, her character there, her soul, and then this body is just an as an empty shell. And it is gone, And just in the blink of an eye and that’s the fate of everyone.
We come into the world at absolutely naked, you know, just taking a breath and screaming and we leave our life, and all of us going to leave life like that, oh not dramatic like that I hope, um, hopefully some of us leave life just peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age, but, uh, we are going to have to leave life with nothing.
And, um, so, but during that period of life that we had, what are you going to focus on? Are you going to focus on accruing things materially? cause those things, those things go and, um, nothing in this world really last. If the focus of life is, you know, accruing money, then I’ve actually failed miserably. And I don’t think that’s the answer because I mean, the life that we have. In a place like Australia, it’s full of material wealth although we can’t really feel it. I mean, we have such power in our pockets, just in the mobile phone. We can speak to anyone in the world who also has a mobile phone.
We can see anything we have, apart from lockdown times, you can travel anywhere around the world if we have the means. Um, we live a life beyond the wildest dreams of anyone in history. But it doesn’t have the answers. I mean, depression and anxiety are rife in our society. Suicide is rife and I have met some of the world’s richest people, um, people that are billionaires and they fly to, to see what we’re doing in Africa in their private jets.
I’ve met royalty, a European loyalty, um, and I’ve met all the people right down to, Some poor women that were gang raped by 10 soldiers in the forest and Congo and stabbed and left for dead and, um, or a refugee in Eritrea, who was literally buried in a hole, um, with a corrugated tin over him in there for five years, with about half an hour, a day to go to the toilet.
People like that. I’ve met all different people, different walks of life, and everyone is the same. Everyone has the same issues from the billionaires to the paupers. Uh, they face the same issues. So, in that money to me, doesn’t have the answers, it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t solve the, the condition of the human spirit. And that we are come in world with nothing, we’re going to leave the world with nothing. But I think the question is, are we going to leave the world a better place? What are you going to contribute to the world rather than take for yourself?
[00:15:33] Jeffery Wang: Wise words indeed. And it sounds like you’ve absolutely lived quite the life in terms of the people you’ve come across the, the life experiences that you’ve had.
So puts everything into that perspective. So, thanks for sharing that.
[00:15:48] Lesson 3 Where Your Treasure is, There Is Your Heart.
[00:15:48] Jeffery Wang: lesson number three, “where your treasure is, there is your heart”
[00:15:53] Andrew Browning: A little bit cryptic perhaps. Yeah. I mean, that’s more saying what are you putting your values in? What are you pouring your heart into? One of the first hospitals I’d built was in Northern Ethiopia. I build it in, I didn’t build it, I mean, it was an organization I was working for at the time and, um, that I oversaw the construction and then build up the staff and train the staff and ran it for five years.
And I poured my heart and soul into that hospital. We were treating about 600 fistula patients a year, just myself, two nurses, and a few ex-fistula patients on staff and things. It was a delight. but I mean, it didn’t last and, uh, it was just temporary because, uh, there was certain circumstances that, um, well forced me to leave Ethiopia and I left before, you know, I could train the staff adequately and which is very unfortunate because now it’s just an empty, really shadow of what it was.
There are hardly any patients coming. It’s just all quite dilapidated. It was great while it lasted, but it didn’t last. And it devastated me, um, just to see what had happened. And after I pour my heart and soul into that, um, but you know, it didn’t last, but I want to know has taught me to put my energies into something that is lasting and things like that, fade, they, they go and I see in Australia, I mean so much emphasis on youth and beauty, that plastic surgery it’s such a big industry. People are just seeking physical beauty and thinking of that may satisfy them. And that may last, but that all fades.
I mean, you know that I’m now over 50 and that’s well, and truly faded if it was, um, if you put your heart into something that’s going to fade. I mean, you’re going to live a pretty, um, dissatisfied, unfulfilled life. There was an old African proverb. It’s probably a little bit politically incorrect, but I’ll say it anyway.
Um, in Africa it says that all people are beautiful until they open their mouth. Yeah. I mean, there’s physical beauty in everyone, but the real beauty, it should come from your character. And then while that’s saying that, you know, unless your you’ve got a good character, um, that beauty it isn’t there.
I mean, I’ve met some In my life would be very privileged to meet, you know, top models and the beautiful people. And when they open their mouth you think, oh, I don’t really want to be in your company, but, um, Yeah. Instead, we should invest in our character, not a character that drives selfish ambition for your, for your own and ruthlessness that you might build up a successful businessperson.
And I’ve also met very successful businesspeople. And I don’t really enjoy their company because of that attitude, but I think that the character I strive for is integrity and faithfulness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. And so, things like self-control and, um, yeah, those sorts of things in your character, if you invest in those, everything else will follow.
And so if we have a, you know, a good character. I mean, even if people try to accuse you of doing wrong and being corrupt or, or whatever, it’s not going to stick because you have had a good character and hopefully there’ll be plenty of people that have tried to accuse me of doing wrong.
And sometimes yes, I’ve done wrong. And I’m thankful that they accuse me of doing that and keep me accountable. But other times it’s all been completely false. Um, but if you strive to have a, a character of integrity yeah. Then that, um, everything else in your life will, will follow.
[00:19:24] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. What makes one’s character desirable?
[00:19:28] Andrew Browning: Yeah. Um, I think those values of like joy and love and peace and thankfulness, positive, positive, um, attributes to your character and that, um, you know, we’ll give you a good name and, um, build up your reputation. So, I mean, reputation follows character. I think, I mean, I’ve met, you know, again in my life, some very, very poor people.
Um, but they have such strong characters such lives of integrity, such honesty, such truthfulness. and it’s such a giving character, you just delight in being in their company and you learn so much from, even though they’re materially poor, maybe they’re there, they’re physically very unattractive, once you see their character, their inner beauty just, just shines through and you think these are absolutely gorgeous, wonderful people.
[00:20:14] Jeffery Wang: That’s a very good point because you can’t help, but to be drawn to people with character, is that, is that something that’s fundamental to all people? Is that just the way we’re made that we are actually attracted to these characters?
[00:20:27] Andrew Browning: I think there’s an underlying truth in that. Those values. Those values of goodness, um, are attractive to all people. And I think, um, there’s an old saying that too, you don’t overcome evil with evil. You can overcome evil with good. And, um, it was a very, outstanding, Ugandan. I’d never met him, but I heard him speak. He said, the live through Idi Amin’s time and he said, I don’t carry a gun. I carry love.
[00:20:53] Jeffery Wang: Wow.
[00:20:53] Andrew Browning: And, uh, he overcome evil just by sheer goodness and love. And I think when people see that love and goodness, they recognize it. I think that’s a common thing across all humanity.
[00:21:06] Lesson 4 Look Out Not In
[00:21:06] Jeffery Wang: And you can say it with experience too having, um, having lived your life around in those places. So, lesson number four, look out, not in.
[00:21:15] Andrew Browning: Yes. I, I think, you know, as you were alluding to, before looking out to the needs of others is far, far more satisfying than any sort of wealth, that I’ve not accrued wealth that I could, I could have.
Yeah. So, uh, I mean, people like Ngolo, just to see the joy. In their heart. And I’ve seen that joy in people you know, thousands of people, some of the fistula patients, you can’t cure, and it breaks your heart.
It’s tragic and it makes you want to cry on the inside. You sometimes cry with the patients, but you want to serve the others. And so, a life of service and looking out to the needs of others rather than the needs of yourself, just has given me so much more satisfaction and joy in life.
[00:21:57] Jeffery Wang: Yep. So, have you always had that approach to life? I mean, was there a time when you were looking in and not out?
[00:22:05] Andrew Browning: Oh, absolutely. There are still times in my life that I, that I look in and the times are looking some of the needs of myself.
I start to get a little bit down, cause my, my needs are never met, but when I meet the needs of others it just certainly shifts the emphasis from yourself to others and serving others and that just puts your life into perspective. And, um, the service of others just gives many people, not just me, a life of more depth and satisfaction.
[00:22:34] Lesson 5 Let No Debt Remain, Apart From The Debt To Love Each Other
[00:22:34] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. And lesson number five. Let no debt remain apart from the debt to love each other. That sounds very profound. I must admit, I don’t really know what that means.
[00:22:49] Andrew Browning: Yeah. So let no debts remain apart from the debt to love each other. I’m a middle aged, white Australian male, and speaking about feelings of love and that sort of thing is a little bit, um, you know, it’s not what middle-aged white Australian males talk about, but, the caring, a good character and wanting to love and to serve, uh, that’s been the basis of, how I’ve been living my life.
That’s been the, the rock bed, I suppose. And, uh, I don’t want to be indebted to anyone than just have a debt to, to love everyone around you more. And then that’s recognized I remember actually once, um, I was invited as a very young person, relatively young as 32 or 33, I think.
And I invited to give a what’s called a state-of-the-art lecture to a big scientific conference in Holland. It was something that two or 3000 people in the audience, all very critical medical scientists and doctors and whatever. And, you know, I presented my science, but I also spoke mainly about the women we served and what we do to serve them.
And, um, yeah, I got a standing ovation from everyone in the, in the house and it wasn’t because people were appreciative of the science. As a young fellow, I don’t think my science particularly fantastic or inspiring, but they recognized a life of servicing and love given to these patients.
And that’s what they gave them standing ovation to. And yeah, I think we need to continuous service and love. And I mean, people often ask me, you know, you’ve done a lot of things in your life, what’s your biggest achievement? Was it, you know, giving this address to a scientific thing when you’re so young or building a hospital, or, you know, helping these people?
But I said, no, no, no. The, the, probably the greatest thing that I’ve done if I’ve achieved. I don’t like that word achieve, because it makes you feel like you’re striving to something, I’d rather serve. But if you’re loving and you’re serving, and if that leads you to having to build a hospital to stop people suffering, like Ngolo suffered, then you do it.
And everyone has these experiences, I remember once I was up every night for three weeks, um, you know, in the hospital and working during the day, I was absolutely shattered the end of three weeks. My first night, I probably wasn’t going to get called to hospital.
My son was up sick and I had to get up and, you know, you are so tired and you, uh, you can’t even think because it’s so exhausting, but you get up and you tend to your sick son, or you put your arm around a fistula patients and help her up, who’s no one’s even touched or come near to her in 10 years, and she’s crying because someone actually loved her. I mean, it’s those moments of loving that’s the greatest part of sharing with each other.
Always just have a debt. That’s the only debt you should have, just the debt to love others.
[00:25:21] Jeffery Wang: Debt to love others. That’s very well said.
[00:25:24] Lesson 6 Love Is The Common Language
[00:25:24] Jeffery Wang: Which is probably a good segue to the next lesson. Lesson number six – “love is the common language”. Can you tell us the story behind that one?
[00:25:33] Andrew Browning: Yeah, very early in my career. I learned this.
So, I’ve worked cross culturally across I can’t remember how many countries and how many tribes, how many cultures? I remember now it was actually operated on a lady and Chad who was from a nomadic tribe on the Libyan border. And, um, you know, nobody could speak her language and. Yeah. She was actually the first woman from her tribe to ever come to a hospital.
So, they’re all kind of watching what happened to her, just hoping she gets better, but, um, I mean, on all those circumstances, care and compassion and love is seen through every culture. I remember one lady, she was actually in Ethiopia, from, uh, around Somalia area. And she came, she was ostracized, and she came, days travel to get to us, but she had such horrific injuries.
She just couldn’t be cured. And I was devastated, just wanted desperately for her to be cured. And so, she could regain her place in society. But she had injuries that no one could help. Um, but I tried, and I failed, And, um, I had to explain to her through a translator, that we tried, and we did all we could.
Um, but you know, we just, we just can’t help her. And I thought that she’d just break down in tears, but she looked at me and she said, look, um, that doesn’t matter because you’ve cared for me. You’ve loved me. You’ve helped me out. People around me when no one else in society even came near to me.
And she said that for me, that’s enough. And yeah, that was just a turning point in my life just to, to realize just to love another person. Um, it’s the greatest service that you can give them.
Loving another person is something we all can do. Uh, not all of us can be doctors and operate on these people, and not all of us can have the money to build a hospital or to, um, fly around the world. But every person in the world, from the lowest to the highest has the ability to love and share in the humanity.
And that’s a great equalizer across the whole world. Of course, every single person.
[00:27:26] Jeffery Wang: Wow. That’s um, that’s very powerful right there. Thanks for sharing that. Indeed. If we all just love those that are around us, the world itself would just be such a much better place, wouldn’t it? If we all just did a little bit, well let’s hope this message, um, with the podcast reaches as many people as we can and inspire others to love.
[00:27:49] Lesson 7 Lead By Coming Last. Being A Servant
[00:27:49] Jeffery Wang: Thank you for sharing that and lesson number seven “Lead by coming last, being a servant.”
[00:27:56] Andrew Browning: Yeah. I have found myself in positions of leadership, I guess, by founding different charities and building hospitals and being director of different things here and there. The people that are, they’re not under you, because you’re there to serve them as a, as a leader and to build them up and to, for them to reach their potential.
Even in our language, the word like prime minister means that you should be the first servant. And so, leadership should be service to build people up. So, for example, um, you know, recently in one of our hospitals in Tanzania, the laws changed, that, you had to have a particular school documentation for you to be a nurse.
So, we’ve had some very good nurses there, been working for us for years. But all of a sudden, they found that they couldn’t be qualified as a nurse. And so, the government’s position was that they had to leave, but, you know, they’d been loyal to us, and we wanted to serve them. So, we put them through school to get that bit of documentation and sponsored them.
And, um, now they’re coming back to work, uh, you know, back to work legally and there was another guy, uh, similarly in East Africa, very talented surgeon, one of them. doctors I’ve ever worked with, and he wanted to be specialized in obstetrician. So yeah, sure. We will serve you. We’ll give you a sponsorship.
So, we found sponsors in America and Australia for him to go through, to get his specialization as an obstetrician. And we didn’t want to bond him because I knew this guy’s character. He would do good for the people of his country, when he had the, the qualification. And so, you know, we wanted to serve and me give him that chance.
So, we didn’t bond him to come back and give anything back to us. And we supported him through, gave him advice, helped him in every circumstance. And, uh, now he came back to us and said, look, you’ve been good to me, I want to be good to you. So, he’s back on the staff now at, um, at one of our hospitals and that he’s a very loyal, a good staff member. it doesn’t mean that it’s always going to work out like that. I mean, when you serve people, there’s lots of people are there. They’re just going to take advantage of you and, take it and abuse them and run away. Uh, but hopefully, hopefully in time that, they’ll see what you’ve done and, and, um, be a better person for it.
So yeah, just lead by, by serving and investing in people.
[00:29:58] Jeffery Wang: Well, that’s, uh, it’s very profound, but, um, we’ll just go back to that point. Cause that was very interesting. You said that, you know, there are people who will take advantage of you, when you go in there with a servant mindset. How do you, how do you cater for that?
Does that mean that you, you have to examine their character and, and qualify them before you choose to serve them? Or is it a case of just serve them and you know, hopefully they’ll change their mind?
[00:30:24] Andrew Browning: It’s a bit of both. I mean, you have to be wise as well. yeah, you don’t want it to be completely ripped off and taken to town.
So, you have to analyse things. Almost daily, I get asked for money by different groups of people, different individuals coming with stories. And, um, so you do analyse case by case. And so, you don’t just give things blindly and irresponsibly. But if you see a genuine need, I think you, you try and, and meet it.
Yeah. So yeah, you have to be careful with those people that are. I mean, you can run yourself, ragged, just getting yourself stressed and thinking, oh, is this person doing the wrong thing? And, yeah, so actually even in our hospitals, we offer free deliveries for all women, and we are meant to have poor women come. Uh, so we have certain criteria, but there’s all sorts of people coming in trying to abuse that system, you know, richer people, you know, dressing up poor and pretending to be poor. Um, but we have checks and balances. We try to keep that abuse to a minimum. There is going to be still some abuse.
But you know, you have to set a limit. I mean, if you set the criteria so strict, it’s going to exclude some poor people that really need it. I’d rather let in a few people, uh, that are abusing the system. So, we don’t miss the poor people that actually need it. So, there’s going to be an element of abuse, but you try and minimize it.
[00:31:39] Jeffery Wang: Thank you for that.
[00:31:40] Lesson 8 Be Open To Criticism
[00:31:40] Jeffery Wang: And lesson number eight – “be open to criticism”.
[00:31:45] Andrew Browning: When I first went to Africa, I was really, um, you know, I’d grown up in a small country town in New South Wales. So, I’ve been to England a few times cause I was born in England, but I’d never really experienced a different culture.
And I, I guess I came with, um, you know, an imperialistic attitude. Um, we, we knew best, and we could teach people, and I could teach people and I had lots of answers. But yeah, I certainly didn’t, and I’ve actually learned far more from my African colleagues than I’ve actually ever taught them.
More about understanding, more about humanity, more about living, um, I’m a much, much richer person for having spent around 20 years of my life and in Africa with African people and yeah, and that’s because they’ve criticized me, um, you know, pointed out that, you know, you’re not always right.
We do it this way, this way actually works better in this context. And, you know, I slowly started to realize, yeah, they’re right. Yeah, what works in Australia doesn’t work in, in South Sudan or Uganda or Congo or whatever. Um, yeah, you have to learn you sit back and learn from these people and then work collaboratively, uh, to see how you can improve things.
And so yeah, if I wasn’t open to that criticism and wasn’t open to hearing correction. yeah, I don’t think I would’ve done anything useful in my life.
[00:33:04] Jeffery Wang: Well that that’s a very wise observation, right? So, I mean, it does take us an amount of humility and, and awareness to be able to be open to such criticism.
The key was for you to be able to see that the Australian context does not apply to South Sudan, for example. So how did you develop that sense of awareness of humility to be able to accept criticism?
[00:33:27] Andrew Browning: I think that just comes back to the basic thing of love. If you love those people that you’re with, you love those people that you’re serving. They soon realize that. And, but if you come place of arrogance, you know, dictatorial, I know best attitude, that’ll just put barriers, it’ll put divisions, hostility, but if you have an openness and that love, I’ve been trying to make it the foundation of the way I live, and then people recognize that they see them, they, they see that you’re trying, they see that you’re kind to them that you’re accepting of them. And I’m spending time with them too. I mean, just spending time in their house with their family, eating, inviting them to your house, eating, um, yeah.
Building up those relationships. That’s the best investment you can do is into people and loving them and learning from each other. There’s a great deal you can learn from each other, and to make you a better person in this world a better place.
[00:34:17] Lesson 9 There Is Nothing New Under The Sun
[00:34:17] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. So that’s move on to lesson number nine.
Now I like this one. “There is nothing new under the sun”.
[00:34:27] Andrew Browning: Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, if there’s nothing new under the sun, all these things that I’ve been talking about, um, there’s this old, old, old, old wisdom. Some things that just haven’t changed. As I said a little bit earlier, I’ve committed my life to Christ as a 14-year-old, gave my life to Christ. Every principle that I’ve been talking about is from the Bible.
And, um, some of which has been written three and a half thousand years ago. I mean, we live in a world that is vastly different to the biblical world, when the Bible was actually written, I mean, as I said before, we have these devices in our pockets that are so powerful, we can fly, we can communicate, we can do this on zoom, who would have thought? I’m sitting a hundred kilometres away from you. We are talking to each other and seeing each other like this, extraordinary! I mean, you know, in biblical times the fastest, anyone could go was on a horse. And, um, that was like that for, until the 1800’s.
So, we live in a very different world, but wisdom and the human condition is exactly, exactly the same. But even as our science changes, actually, I like collecting old images of old things and what we’ve learned from history behind my desk, I have a, um, a map of Africa that was actually drawn in the 1500’s. It’s from the world’s first Atlas and the shape of Africa is completely wrong.
The, um, the rivers are completely wrong. It’s all made up. There’re mountains, all wrong. It’s just what they would think it would be like, then I’ve got a map of Africa from the 1850s. The shape of Africa is better. The rivers and mountains are better. They’re still not like our maps today.
The political boundaries are not there at all. This is just completely changed so that the, um, the maps of Africa that we have today. So, I mean, just in that time, our science has changed so much, even just map drawing. You know, where we live is, is changed dramatically, but also got copies of the Bible that was written 800 years ago and 500 years ago. And, um, today, and it’s exactly the same. The words that are exactly the same or slightly different, thees, thous and wherefores and the phrasing and the meaning is exactly the same. God’s word hasn’t changed. That wisdom that people learned 3000 years ago, that speaks to the human condition is exactly the same.
People are following have the same issues of relationships issues, they have ambitions and selfishness, and money is a temptation that can bring the worst out of people. And that’s exactly the same 3000 years ago. I mean, I’ve seen families divide over inheritances, awful! The parents die and the kids fight over the inheritance just because the money often brings out the worst of people.
Exactly the same as it is. It happened 3000 years ago. I mean, humans haven’t changed. There’s nothing new under the sun. And then everything that I’ve learned is nothing new. It’s been around for thousands of years.
[00:37:16] Jeffery Wang: That’s right. No amount of iPhone is going to change human nature.
[00:37:25] Andrew Browning: It can be even making it worse, bringing out the worst of human nature.
[00:37:28] Jeffery Wang: So, you don’t think, this age of instant gratification, you know, tweeting and influencers and Instagram, you don’t think this has changed at all for the better or the worse?
[00:37:43] Andrew Browning: I think there’s, with everything, there’s good things and bad things, isn’t it?
It’s wonderful to be able to know what’s happening with people all around the world. What you do with that information is, I don’t know. Uh, cause it’s you shouldn’t be living in there, your immediate environment with the immediate people. yeah, but I mean, it’s good to be able to communicate like we are now, we couldn’t do this during lockdown without that.
Yes. There’s good things and bad things, but you know, every technology can be used for, for good or evil. I mean, there is a lot of bullying and sexting, and you know, all those abuses that is going on with those useful tools, um, also damaging things can happen with them as well. And that what lies behind that is human nature, which is either using it for good or for evil. And that hasn’t changed at all in thousands of years.
[00:38:28] Jeffery Wang: Yeah. No amount of technology is going to make people good.
So, if there are evil people driving the world, Potentially the technology could be, dystopian in its nature and, and be used in completely the wrong way. So, it’s not enough just to have technological progress.
We have to remain orientated to pursue what’s good and what’s right and righteous.
[00:38:53] Andrew Browning: Yeah. Working with the character.
[00:38:55] Jeffery Wang: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:38:57] Lesson Unlearnt
[00:38:57] Jeffery Wang: So, we’d love to throw our wise guests, usually one of these curve balls. Before we get onto the last lesson, um, what I want to ask you is, is there any lesson that you have unlearned? And what I mean by that is, is there anything that you have held to be this ironclad truth that you’ve always thought to be true, that you’ve learned through your years. That there’s just not the case?
[00:39:19] Andrew Browning: Yeah. And that’s, um, a little bit, like from my point about receiving criticism that said, I just don’t have all the answers.
Um, there’s a lot I can learn. I mean, when I first went to Africa, I did think like that, that I did have the answers and that caused a lot of trouble, created a lot of divisions, until I learned to sit back and listen and learn and look, and love and serve. Yes. So yeah, always be open to criticism. Don’t be arrogant and think that you have the answer that you’re always right.
Um, yeah, be open to learn.
[00:39:51] Lesson 10 All Is Empty If All We See Is All There Is
[00:39:51] Jeffery Wang: Awesome. Thank you. And lesson number 10, and this one sounds very profound. Um, and again, I must admit, I don’t know if I really comprehend this properly. You say lesson number 10 is “all is empty if all that we see is all that there is”. “All is empty if all that we see is all that there is”, what do you mean by that?
[00:40:14] Andrew Browning: Yeah. I’m thinking meaning, if all that we see in this material world, if that’s the only thing there is and we’re just here just coming into the world of nothing and leaving in the world of nothing. And while we’re here for these brief few years, if this is all that there is and all those values, um, and all those wisdom that I was talking about, I mean, what’s the point?
Why not live just for yourself? Just accrue wealth, enjoy life as much for yourself as you, as you possibly can. Um, yeah, but if there’s something behind it, that there’s some truth behind it, something beyond what we can see and touch just with our eyes and our hands and our ears and listen to with our ears, then it will change many things.
I mean, I’ve been very privileged. in that I’ve had a good upbringing in a nice, comfortable country town in New South Wales. I went to Sydney uni to get my medical degree. I mean, I had a fantastic education. That’s enabled me, equips me with the skills and the knowledge to do what I’ve done, but it didn’t actually instil any values in me.
It didn’t give me the framework to think and to live by. I’m very honoured to get an award from Sydney uni just earlier this year, actually. And it was for services to humanity and, uh, the acceptance speech, I had to be honest with them and trying to get them to think that, you know, I said that no Sydney uni has given me a fabulous education, to qualify me as, as a doctor and the reputation that Sydney university has, has put me in good stead to be able to do what I’ve done, but, um, though it did that, it didn’t give me any values.
Um, my values came from somewhere else. And the same my old boss, um, my old boss, um, in Ethiopia, when I first went there and worked with her for 10 years later called Dr. Katherine Hammond. She was a wonderful, wonderful, gracious lady and received Australia’s highest awards. And people used to call her a great Australian as if to say that, um, being Australian made her do what she does.
But she’d be the, she was the first person to say all this is load of nonsense. Being Australian is wonderful. It’s given you every opportunity in life, but it hasn’t taught you what to do with those opportunities. So, for both of us and for many of the people in the world. The motivation, the inspiration for doing, um, for doing what we do, a life of love and a life of service, has come from something beyond what we can see.
So recently I was on, uh, another interview and, um, and we were talking about a similar thing, and I asked the lady, you know, she was doing some, some interesting things. And I said, what’s the inspiration for you to do these things, because she’s living a different life.
And she said, well, I get my refreshments and I teach other people to get refreshment just by going out into nature, and just looking at the beauty of nature. And I said, well, I mean, that’s, that’s good. But I mean, if there’s something beyond that, I mean, wouldn’t it, you get more strength from actually knowing the creator of that nature, rather than looking at his creation.
And that was probably the turning point in my life. When I was at 14, it wasn’t going to a big university or some international conference or, you know, building a hospital or whatever.
The turning point was really when I was 14, I was in, um, the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. It was a freezing cold winter’s night. It was blowing a gale. It was raining. It was miserable. We went to a youth rally in a church in a tiny, tiny town. And, uh, that’s when I heard the news that, um, God was who he said he was, uh, he was real, he came as a person, in the form of Jesus Christ and he died and rose again to defeat death, and give you hope, uh, of knowing God, knowing your creator.
And living beyond what we see now into where our spirit will be with him, uh, into the future, past our death. And that just filled me with absolute joy. It transformed the way I think. And, but if that’s real, it is the most significant point in history where God actually came as a man to have a relationship with us.
And it would be so significant that you’d want to base your calendar around it, before Christ in the year of our Lord, which is exactly what we’ve done!
Is that real? Um, and I’ve found that at the age of 14 to be a real truth. And so, for me to find that truth, that I can, they might create something to get inspiration for me. And he gives me the strength to live a life of love and service has transformed my life. And it’s given me the strength to look beyond what we see and hear and touch.
And just in this finite fading material world into something that maybe there is a creator behind it, that we can know him. And, um, yeah, it just gives you a life of joy and love, uh, that you want to share with other people. And it’s not, um, just peculiar to me and my old boss, Catherine Hammond.
There’s been millions of people sharing that hope and joy, and it’s true to say that 50% of healthcare in Africa is provided by Christian mission. And that’s an enormous amount of work that people who have come to know Christ and, and our creator, our God, uh, has been inspired to do this work. It’s a huge amount of work that’s been done in the world.
You know, 45% of education is provided by the church, people want to serve. And they get that inspiration to serve by looking beyond what’s in the material world, to beyond, and knowing their creator. So that, that truth, if you can find a truth and stick by it, that’s beyond what we see in here.
That’s given me tremendous strength in my life, this, of course, there’s some times in my life that I doubt and think, gee, am I crazy? Is this true? But then I just fall back to it. It’s the only thing that has made sense, in all the different cultures, all the different situations. that I’ve been in. It’s the only common philosophy or worldview that, that makes sense of what I see and do and hear in this world,
[00:46:04] Jeffery Wang: Thank you. I realized that was a very deeply personal aspect of your life, in terms of your faith. And I really thank you for sharing that. We recently had a discussion here at the 10 lessons team about what is wisdom, as opposed to what his intelligence. And we came to the conclusion that wisdom has an element of morality in there, in that it’s not just how to grapple with the world. But it’s indeed, what is the right things to do?
And I think you’ve given us, a lot to think about in terms of what is the purpose of all this and, and indeed without the moral angle, um, What’s the point? what’s the point of all this?
Um, so yeah, so this is, um, this is indeed a very insightful lesson for me. I must admit, I really enjoyed your stories and, um, you know, it just blew me away. You speak about, um, not having a whole lot of material possessions, and yet you’re probably one of the richest person I know in terms of, you know, what you’ve done.
So, thank you so much for sharing your story and the 10 lessons.
[00:47:09] Andrew Browning: Thank you very much Jeff, It’s only because God enabled me. I can tell you that, I haven’t got my own strength at all.
[00:47:14] Jeffery Wang: Thank you, and we’ll finish on that note. You’ve been listening to the podcast, 10 Lessons it Took Me 50 Years to Learn, where we dispense wisdom for career, business, and life.
Our guest today was Dr. Andrew Browning sharing the 10 lessons it took him 50 years to learn.
This episode is produced by Robert Hossary, sponsored by the Professional Development Forum, which offers insights, community discussions, podcast, parties, anything you want, Anything you need, and it’s all free. You can find them online at www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org.
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