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Persons of the Week 2/1: Dennis and Karen Swanson

Posted at 5:59 PM, Feb 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-01 21:19:51-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– A Spectrum Health Doctor and his wife have dedicated more than 35 years to “paying it forward” in West Africa.

Dennis and Karen Swanson first traveled to Cameroon in 1976 while they were in the Peace Corps. The young newlyweds fell in love with the country. They had no idea they would return a decade later to continue their efforts to give back.

After earning his medical degree, Dennis decided to return to the Cameroon to donate his services to save lives. As a private volunteer, he works in a mission hospital where he specializes in emergency medicine. The Grand Rapids doctor is also teaching the next generation of doctors there.

“I’ve been very lucky, lucky to take my skills over there,” Dennis told FOX 17 News. “And, I’m lucky that I like to go over and do it… people are extremely grateful.”

Karen has stayed by his side through the years, working behind the scenes.

“You really feel like you’ve made a difference and that’s what’s really exciting for me,” explained Karen. “I love the country, I love the people.”

The couple is planning their next visit this May.