As a college undergraduate a few short years ago, Richard Hubbard says, "I thought for a while I wanted to become an economist in international development, but decided they spend a lot of time talking about problems instead of dealing with problems." Now a second-year medical student, the Hanover County native is dedicating part of his frenetic life to helping the impoverished in Bangladesh.
"[Hubbard's] dedication to humanitarianism is unparalleled," says Dr. Isaac K. "Ike" Wood, a senior associate dean at the VCU School of Medicine. "It is unheard of that a young man, facing the rigors of undergraduate medical education and medical school, still has created the time to fund raise, volunteer and build a hospital and educational setting at an international level."
Wood nominated Hubbard for the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation's 2010 Salute to Service Award for medical students or residents. In February, Hubbard followed that honor with a 2011 Leadership Award from the American Medical Association Foundation, given to just 24 medical students nationwide.
The recognition helps the Basic Needs Program ( bangladeshbasicneeds.org ), which Hubbard co-founded in 2007, improve life for street families without a breadwinning father. Last year, Basic Needs opened a village school near the capital of Dhaka for 35 students, and this year admitted 25 more. The building contains four classrooms, a medical clinic and a room to house orphans. Hubbard, 24, is working with VCU School of Medicine faculty to promote independent student research projects in Bangladesh that would involve health care work.
He first visited Dhaka to perform public health research as an undergraduate student at the University of the South in Tennessee. In the streets, he encountered a severely malnourished 12- to 18-month-old child. At 7 pounds, she was too weak to blink or cry. Hubbard took her to a malnutrition ward, paid for her care and learned how her fatherless family struggled to survive.
That led him to found the Basic Needs Program, which assists the desperately poor in and around Dhaka with housing, clothing, food, education and medical care. Through lectures, news stories and groups inspired by Hubbard's acts, Basic Needs has collected about $75,000.
"People ask me why I started Basic Needs. It was given to me," says Hubbard. "It makes me a more rich and fulfilled person by showing me what's important and what's not important at all."
In July, after taking the imposing Step 1 medical board examination, Hubbard will revisit Bangladesh.