TECH ENTREPRENEUR & FOUNDER OF HEALTH ACCESS CORPS
CHRIS WAS BORN in a small village in Uganda. When he was seven years old, he saw both of his parents die from AIDS within six months of each other. Despite his age, he was expected to care for his four younger siblings even as the five children became homeless and had to scrounge for food. Ultimately, they were separated to live with different families. Chris considers himself lucky. He was able to move into an orphanage and attend primary school. And later, an American family sponsored him to attend a private high school in Uganda and then helped him move to California to stay with them while he attended college. He graduated with a bachelor of science and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from U.C. Berkeley.
“Find something you're really passionate about. Figure out how you're going to pay bills while you're doing it. Have a strategy in how long you're going to be at it. And then you never have to work because you love what you do.”
- Chris on advice he would give to others who want to stand up and start something.
When Chris was nine, one of his younger brothers died while Chris and another family member were carrying him on their backs to the nearest hospital—which was ten miles away. After seeing those closest to him die without access to medical care, Chris realized the urgency of creating a world in which every human being has access to quality health care. His first entrepreneurial effort was to create a nonprofit organization, originally called Rides for Lives, to build vehicles such as motorbike ambulances to connect people in rural Ugandan communities to health and education services.
But as he learned more about the problem, he realized he would need to evolve the way he aimed to achieve his vision. His original approach assumed that getting more people to the hospital would be the key. As he explained to me: “We started off building village ambulances. When you live in a village and you have an emergency of some kind, you are pretty much out of luck. Here in America if you have an emergency, you call 911. People show up. You go to the hospital and you’re saved. Over there if you have an emergency, you are pretty stuck because there’s no such thing as 911.”