Valerie Walker

Santa Barbara, CA

“Combine [your] strengths with wisdom and truly make a difference in the lives of others, whether those people live down the street or around the world.”

Throughout my adult life, my birthday has been a time for self-reflection. As I anticipate my 59th birthday, the past year included retiring from full-time employment and relocating 90 miles from the place I called “home” for most of my life, this I know: Transitions are the perfect opportunity for personal growth and fulfillment.

With the skills I developed over a lifetime in the workplace, my encore is focused on volunteering, and my second act is a personal philanthropic endeavor: I am the founder and executive director of Global Medical Libraries, originally known as Books without Borders, which sent its first shipment to Iraq in 2007. In March 2017, the project was re-branded to Global Medical Libraries (GML), to better reflect the scope of the project and its continuing mission to improve global health care, one book at a time.

GML exists to shrink the educational gap in all areas of the health sciences in developing countries, which face the same problem: Doctors and nurses go without the latest professional information they need to provide proper health care to their patients.

In response to this urgent demand for life-saving knowledge, GML has built a powerful collaboration between publishers, authors, universities and hospitals to provide formal medical references and continuing-education materials for health sciences students and professionals who lack access to resources.

Valerie Walker presenting a Physicians Desk Reference at Sister Aklesia Memorial Hospital, Adama, Ethiopia.

Since the program’s inception, over $2.5 million worth of health sciences textbooks (dentistry, nursing and medical) textbooks have been donated to 25 countries on 4 continents: Afghanistan, Antiqua, Chad, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Haiti, Iraq, Malawi, Morocco-Western Sahara region, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Republic of Fiji, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey (Turkish Syrian Border), Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This project literally opened the world to me. I didn’t grow up as a world traveler. I was 19 years old the first time I flew on an airplane and was 43 years old the first time I left North America. Nine years later, I visited Africa and saw first-hand the living conditions of people in developing countries. Now, I have the great privilege to be part of the solution to improve global healthcare.

I’m a volunteer with GML, and I feel grateful for the opportunity. All the good GML does around the world makes my heart overflow with joy, every day! I am having enormous fun. My reward is knowing that the educational resources we provide make an immediate and lasting impact. Lives are being saved.