By Britney Grayson, Frist Global Health Leader
I guess you might say that everything is unexpected for me on this trip. This is my first time on the continent of Africa and so many things have been a surprise. For example, here in Kenya, almost everyone speaks English and there are zebras by the side of the road grazing on grass just like there are horses in the US.
I have been wide-eyed and smiling since I arrived.There were also things I expected from the reports of my colleagues who preceded me. I smile just as widely at the opportunity to work with incredibly talented residents and general surgeons to care for incredibly gracious patients.
The biggest surprise, however, has been the house that I live in and my four roommates. The Kijabe AIC Hospital owns a number of houses a short walking distance from the hospital and uses some of them to house short-term visiting doctors and medical students.
I am fortunate enough to live with one other resident, a woman from Somaliland training in family medicine, and three visiting medical students, all Kenyan women. To say we became fast friends is an understatement. This house fosters incredible community. When the five of us get home from work, we typically sit in the living room and discuss our days. The other resident and I talk about how our jobs are different here versus our respective homes.
I learned that “family medicine” in Somaliland means that she will treat every acute medical and surgical problem that presents itself to her hospital. She is expected to treat high blood pressure or new-onset diabetes one minute and perform an exploratory abdominal operation in the next minute. I cannot imagine preparing for that kind of job.
I also learned that the medical students in Kenya typically train in a very large and busy hospital where the system unfortunately limits their opportunities to learn. They see a difference here in Kijabe and tell me how wonderful it is to learn not only the medical and surgical subjects but also how to care for patients with love and kindness.
I have been so humbled to be a part of this community. As one of the residents in the house, I was often the person to field questions about difficult situations that the medical student roommates were involved in including end of life, dynamics of teamwork and how to balance personal and professional lives.
My wonderful roommate-friends tell me that they learned so much from me, but I learned even more from them. It was incredible to witness them grow in confidence, ability, and their desire to care for patients. I could easily see how much I have learned and reminisce on the incredible people who encouraged me along this path.
And through what I hope will be life-long friendships, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a very small part of healthcare in eastern Africa for years to come.