As I was packing for my first international medical trip to Guyana, South America, my wandering mind conjured image after image of third-world medicine based on popular notions and dramatic stories I have heard over the years. I imagined a row of soiled cots where emaciated children without IV access spent their final hours. I pictured a sweltering tent full of tuberculosis patients collectively coughing up blood; or a bathroom-sized emergency department packed with fever-stricken, jaundiced, indigenous peoples dying of AIDS, malaria, and other ailments while overwhelmed healthcare workers looked the other way out of emotional self-preservation because they had nothing to offer. As described to me by some physicians who had been there in recent years, some of these were features specific to the hospital I was heading to in the capital city of Georgetown.
I've probably done more than 30 appendectomies so far during my general surgical residency. For all the times I've taken care of someone with appendicitis, rarely, if ever, has the thought that they might die from the illness crossed my mind. Indeed, some of these patients were quite sick; but once they presented to medical attention, we could get them through their illness. Many of these patients were young which help in their recovery.
As I was packing for my first international medical trip to Guyana, South America, my wandering mind conjured image after image of third-world medicine based on popular notions and dramatic stories I have heard over the years. I imagined a row of soiled cots where emaciated children without IV access spent their final hours. I pictured a sweltering tent full of tuberculosis patients collectively coughing up blood; or a bathroom-sized emergency department packed with fever-stricken, jaundiced, indigenous peoples dying of AIDS, malaria, and other ailments while overwhelmed healthcare workers looked the other way out of emotional self-preservation because they had nothing to offer. As described to me by some physicians who had been there in recent years, some of these were features specific to the hospital I was heading to in the capital city of Georgetown.

I am delighted to tell you how antiquated and cynical my preconceived notions had been.

An Impatient Optimist

Dec 01 2011

In 1981, I was a surgeon in training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I still remember the day we learned about a strange, new, deadly infection that presented on the West Coast. A little over a year later, we learned it was caused by a virus transmitted in the blood, a vital fact for a doctor performing surgery every day.

As I watched the epidemic grow from a handful of cases to a few hundred to several million, I also witnessed the cases grow in biblical proportions in less developed nations, namely across Africa. While I served in the Senate, I volunteered on annual mission trips to do surgery in villages ravaged by civil war. In these forgotten corners of the world, I witnessed how HIV was hollowing out societies.
It’s now been one full week since my arrival in Kijabe, Kenya. Simply speaking, to understand everything I’ve seen and experienced in the past week will take months of careful thought and reflection. I’ve seen the shackling consequences of poverty, the natural history of surgical disease more advanced than I’d ever seen before, a lack of medical resources, and the list goes on; but, overshadowing all of this, I’ve seen the good several committed people can do at one place in time to positively affect patients and their families for a lifetime.
I arrived in Kijabe, Kenya with two other senior anesthesia residents from Vanderbilt midday Sat Oct 29th, after departing Nashville Thursday Oct 27th, flying overnight to London, and then all day to Nairobi. We spent the night in the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi, where we met several missionaries coming and going to and from various parts of east Africa, and then were driven up to Kijabe the next morning.

by Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.

Both Friend Force of Knoxville and Friend Force of Memphis are hosting the Russian delegates this week, including today. 

The Russian delegates in Knoxville will be meeting with governmental officials Mayor Daniel Brown as well as Judge Tom Varlan today. They will be briefed on the bluegrass music of Appalachia at the Knoxville Visitor's Center, and their afternoon will be spent visiting with Cherokee Health Systems. This evening, the North Rotary Club of Knoxville will host the Russian delegates for dinner.

In Memphis, the delegates will meet with the Memphis Medical Society as well as with the University of Memphis. At the University, there will be round table discussions regarding healthcare delivery in Russia and the United States among other presentations.

As 2011 draws to an end, The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) is elated to record yet another milestone in restoring hope to people affected by HIV and AIDs pandemic in Uganda. The organization, with support from her development partners and friends, has completed the construction of a multi-million complex, named House of Hope.

The attractive building, located at Plot 10 Windsor Loop, Kampala, was officially opened on 16th of September 2011 in a grand ceremony presided by Hon. Princess Kabakumba Masiko, Minister of Presidency, who represented H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda.

by Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.

In following the meetings and events of the Russian delegation learning from Tennessee's wealth of health care corporations, universities, and institutions, we will share their schedule throughout the week.

Today, Tuesday, November 1, the delegates visiting Knoxville have spent the morning at Pellissippi State Community College touring the Nursing Department. This afternoon, they toured the UT Hospital and had a quick photo at the Rachmaninoff statue in World’s Fair Park. Afterwards, they will visit the Knoxville Museum of Art and learn about their Mobile Meals program for the elderly.

In Memphis, the other delegates met this morning at the Christ Community Health Services. This organization is a faith-based network of medical and dental clinics supplemented by a range of community outreach activities.  CCHS serves a primarily low-income minority population that does not have the resources to obtain care elsewhere. For lunch, they visited the Caritas Village. And, this afternoon, they visited the Assisi Foundation of Memphis for a presentation and discussion on current health care reform initiatives and then the Hope and Healing Center to learn about their wellness and fitness program for a low-income population.

I arrived at the beginning of September for my first time in Africa. I really did not know what to expect but after 2 weeks I am really deeply impressed. Kijabe hospital is a medical center in Kenya where people get medical treatment at a high level for a reasonable price. The doctors are well trained – mostly in America and Australia, the residents, house and medical officers are highly motivated, have abundant basic medical knowledge, and, on top of that, they receive a detailed and profound training in their specialties that will prepare them for their challenges in the smaller community hospitals. Politics just has to make sure that they stay here in Africa to serve their countries and their people after they are finished with their training.

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