We recently received this wonderful note from Dr. Mark Newton, one of our pilot contacts. Dr. Newton is a Professor at Vanderbilt University who has also been running the Anesthesiology Department at Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya, for the last 13 years. The Health eVillages users at Kijabe are all nurse anesthetists under his guidance. Dr. Newton is an incredibly inspirational individual, and here is what he wrote:
“As I am writing this note, a big orange ball is lowering itself over the plains of the Great Rift Valley, and I search for but cannot find evidence of one light bulb as the shades of darkness cover the Massai huts in the distance. We were busy today in our nine operating rooms, caring for women who have had complications from birth while they were in Somalia. We had a small boy from Madagascar who had a brain defect called encephalocele (big words make doctors “sound” smart) and a man who had tuberculosis of the spine, and they all needed good anesthesia care. We have committed ourselves to improve the care of surgical patients in Sub-Sahara Africa, and each graduate from the anesthesia program will save lives for years. We have projected that each anesthesia graduate will save 14,600 lives if they work for ten years and do only two cesarean sections per day, which is a very low estimate. This will be over 7,300 mothers and 7,300 children who have their lives saved due to this training program in Africa. And each of you are involved in this life-changing program.
We have been training in Kenya for almost 15 years, and with my travels into the conflict countries of Southern Sudan and Somalia and not being able to forget the faces of patients left without care, we have started an anesthesia program for these two countries as well. This weekend, 14 women and one young man came to learn anesthesia for non-physicians from Southern Sudan and a partnership with the Governments of Southern Sudan and Kenya along with the World Bank, logistics, and some friends of mine who have funded the project. These people have never had a medical book, but a few of them have a laptop. A doctor studying anesthesia in Tanzania attended. He is in his last six months of training, as a specialist, and after visiting our hospital and hearing a lecture, he told me that in three years he had never been to a real lecture. He had been told to go and learn on his own without any supervision. In addition, I have sent two of my African graduates into Somalia — funded via a grant — to start the first anesthesia program in Somaliland with a strong female leader. In the book “Half the Sky”, Edna Aden is discussed in one chapter as an example of a person who has changed her world. We have been working with her for many years to improve healthcare in Somaliland and now have a non-physician training program in her hospital in Hargeisa.
All of these different levels of training in Africa impact lives each day, and the iPods, iPads and tablets are changing the manner in which we can educate. My desire would be that we speed up so we can have a greater, far-reaching educational focus in the lives of trainees in Africa. With the proper tools, these young people can change their own countries without the hurdles of improper aid and interference from those who will never understand their culture and specific issues for development. We can use technology, which has become so common in western countries, in a manner that is empowering so those who were raised in huts without even a light bulb can now use a basic device to save a mother’s life through education.
Thank you for your work in this effort. I could write a story or two per day describing how books and lectures can help spread the educational cloud as I spread myself thin across this mass of students who desire and deserve excellent medical education. You are making a difference in this land. I looked again now that the sun is totally down and can only see the lights of a few trucks moving down a narrow road in the Valley floor. This continent needs our help, and we are losing ground every day and night.