In 1988, Dr. Seaman accompanied a medical team sent to a community in
Sudan isolated by civil war. The population there was ravaged by
kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis), a disease previously not seen in the
region. The disease, transmitted by sandflies, is 90 percent fatal if
left untreated. Treatment is a 20-day course of injections of a
potentially toxic, antimony-based drug. Patients typically walked for
days to reach the clinic, a central tent facility surrounded by a huge
encampment of patients, their families, and sometimes also their cattle
that needed tending during the treatment period. Dr. Seaman monitored
up to 1,400 kala-azar patients at a time and personally treated more
than 10,000 patients.
Dr. Seaman's deep affection for the people of southern Sudan, their
language and culture is very evident, and her patients return her
devotion with an inclusive trust and admiration. The chief of one
village announced that he has named many of his daughters "Jill" -- and
is planning to give the name to his future sons, also.
Dr. Seaman has also served as a general medical officer for a 50-bed
regional Indian Health Service bush hospital in Bethel, Alaska. She
received a United States Public Health Service Citation for this work in
1986. In 1994, the British Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and
Hygiene awarded Dr. Seaman the Donald MacKay Medal, which recognizes
outstanding work in tropical health in rural areas.
As a result of her extensive community service, Time magazine profiled
her work in 1997 in a special issue devoted to medical heroism.