The opportunity to come to Kijabe, Kenya has been one of the most enjoyable, educational, and eye-opening experiences throughout my surgical training thus far. One of the most valuable experiences here has been the opportunity to learn from and work among Kenyan surgeons and trainees.
I was fortunate enough to be able to work with a Kenyan surgeon here at Kijabe. She is incredibly smart, resourceful, kind, diligent, and committed to her patients and trainees. I, as an outsider and Westerner who does not often understand the cultural or financial complexities that Kenyans here face upon entering the hospital, am amazed at how efficiently she is able to navigate these difficult situations to give patients and families the care they deserve. From her I have learned innumerable lessons, such as how to perform a thyroidectomy through a smaller incision and without fancy tools, how to decide exactly which imaging studies a new trauma patient needs without bankrupting their family, and how to make important decisions about critically ill patients in a hospital with only five ICU beds. She makes decisions about patients which take into consideration their medical and surgical needs in the context of their families, religion, and culture.
Furthermore, she has high expectations of her residents and is very invested in training the next generation of East African surgeons. She expects her residents to know their patients by coming prepared to the operating room for the procedure at hand and to be diligent and detail-oriented in their post-operative care.
The resident teams here in Kijabe are comprised of trainees not only in general surgery, but also in family medicine, general practice, orthopedics, and others. While some may remain in tertiary care centers, others are training to be the only provider in a large geographic area in other areas of East Africa. Therefore, they must master many subjects and procedures, ranging from management of high blood pressure to emergent cesarean sections. They must learn how to be such providers in the context of limited resources. Therefore, I learned a great deal from them about how to be a well-rounded provider who is prepared for a variety of pathologies and can recognize when specialty care is needed.
Through interactions with and observations of Kenyan surgeons and trainees, I learned that our own U.S. medical system has much to learn from their surgical practice. Personally, I will endeavor to be a more whole provider – to consider each patient and their family in context of their physical, cultural, and spiritual needs.