By Joel Musee, Frist Global Health Leader
I was lucky to have travelled to Kijabe at an exciting time; there has been an increase in awareness in the medical community about the lack of access to safe anesthesia in low-middle income countries. The GE corporation has been prescient and magnanimous in their support of the efforts by anesthesiologists at Vanderbilt to create a sustainable program to educate Kenyan nurse anesthetists on how to provide a safe anesthetic.
Dr. Mark Newton, a Vanderbilt Pediatric Anesthesiologist is permanently based at AIC Kijabe hospital and has been running a nurse anesthetist program that has, over the years, effectively increased the number of nurse anesthetists in rural Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. The GE corporation is providing monetary support to establish a curriculum that would increase the quality and throughput of this effort. This has begun to involve other anesthesiologists who are answering this bell toll. The concept is simple, and harkens to an old principle; give a hungry man a fish and he may be able to feed for a day, however, if you teach a man to fish, he may be able to sustain himself and others in perpetuity.
The program at Vanderbilt is allowing residents and young attending anesthesiologists the opportunity to participate in this landmark endeavor. During my time I was able to interact, learn and teach new and old nurse anesthetists and clinical officers who had been providing anesthetic care in rural East Africa. The pinnacle of my experience was a 2-day continuing medical education conference on the care for trauma patients. Trauma and obstetric patients represent the highest areas of preventable morbidity and mortality in low-middle income countries and Kenya is no different.
Over the course of my month in Kenya, I was able to interact, teach and learn from over 100 nurse anesthetists and clinical officers who are part of the future of anesthetic care in Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. It was truly humbling. The hardship that these providers live and practice in is almost unfathomable; they lack resources and care for patients under life threatening duress in austere and hostile environments, yet remain undeterred in their spirit and drive.
While they appreciated our presence and commitment to educate, it was I who was the better for it in understanding the state of perioperative care in my homeland. It strengthened my resolve to remain a part of the solution in an area that has fallen behind relative to the advancements and successes in management of infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.
I am also thankful for forward thinking organizations such as the Hope Through Healing Hands who have recognized this as a problem that can be solved by supporting folks who are keen on reducing morbidity and mortality of the denizens of low-middle income countries. After all, we are all part of the same cloth.
To quote John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”