Local Faces

When I started this blog I thought we’d just chronicle some of the funny exploits and adventures of owning our first farm. What I didn’t expect was how quickly we’d make such great friends. One such person is Dr. Ebba Ebba. A former assistant professor of pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine now in private practice in Jacksonville, Dr. Ebba was born and raised in Ethiopia and moved to the U.S. in 1981. He attended med school at Howard University College of Medicine, is married to Zeithun, and they have three small children, Kadir, age 7, Hannah, 5, and Luna, 3. I met “Ebba Ebba” on my first day in Jacksonville (“Is that your real name?” I naively asked him), while I was working away at the local coffee shop and looked up for a moment to find this warm, kind face smiling at me. Dr. Ebba’s story is the first in what might turn into a series of profiles about some of the people we’re meeting here. So thanks, Dr. E, for agreeing to be profiled. Hope I don’t botch it. 🙂

A Conversation with Ebba Ebba, M.D., MPH

Why did you become a children’s doc?

If you really must know, it was the stench of an adult emergency room that sealed my future in pediatrics! Seriously, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with children and see them grow up to be young adults. Sure, the challenges of dealing with a sick little one who’s not yet verbal are tremendous, but the reward of seeing that smiling face soon after is priceless. And there’s just something about a little bear hug filled with “slobber” or the boisterous energy of a curious 4-year-old who’s “wide open” that adds joy to my days. It’s an honor to be entrusted by parents with the care of their children and to become part of their families.

What prompted you to open a practice in Jacksonville?

More than anything, it was a strong leap of faith that opened the door. I was quite comfortable with an academic practice in Atlanta, enjoying the amenities a big city had to offer. Out of the blue, I got a call from a recruiter about the prospect of starting a solo practice in Jacksonville, Alabama — a small university town. I fell in love with the city’s charm as well as culture. Jacksonville accepted me and my young family with open arms and a warm heart. With God’s grace and the community’s support, my practice has grown beyond my wildest imagination. It’s a place where you give as much medical advice at your neighborhood Walmart or high school soccer game as you would in the confines of your office. And knowing that Jacksonville is nestled between Atlanta and Birmingham has its advantages too!

What’s your “coffeehouse pitch” for Gemini Healthcare Group?

Only in America can a young man born and raised in Ethiopia grow to achieve his lifelong dream of making a difference in the lives of others as well as making a comfortable living for himself and his family. But the same can’t be said about the millions of children living in Sub-Saharan African countries like Ethiopia. Abject poverty, man-made and natural disasters, and preventable diseases have joined forces to decimate people’s ability to achieve their full potential. It was with a sense of moral obligation and a desire to give that we established Gemini Healthcare Group (

www.ghcg.org). We’re a not-for-profit that seeks to reduce the burden of suffering from preventable illnesses that have negatively impacted the lives of Ethiopia’s children. We partner with organizations and individuals in the U.S and Ethiopia to improve the health care infrastructure and medical educational capacity, and we have a dream of creating a medical home for thousands of children in Ethiopia.

How can folks help?

There are so many ways to help. Volunteer to be a member or partner and provide your expert advice and service. You don’t have to have a medical background to make a difference; there’s tremendous need for biomedical engineers, architects, marketing experts, etc. Yet others can make financial or in-kind material contributions to help with our projects.

What do you like most about being a “country doctor?”

Walking home for lunch and strolling over to the hospital to see patients, both of which have been my contribution toward reducing the greenhouse effect. It’s amazing to see how many people get to know you on a first-name basis or have heard of you through others. Most importantly, you get to see up close the appreciation and the affection of your patients and parents much more than you might experience in a big town. Oh, and the delicious pecan pies are definitely an added bonus!

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