A few months ago, a friend and mentor connected me, Caroline Gikuru, to The Addis Clinic and after learning more about the work they are doing on the continent and what they hope to achieve, I was delighted when Michelle Turner, the Executive Director reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in joining the Board of Directors.
Having returned to Kenya after living in the US for a decade and a half and having worked in the non-profit sector, I understand both societies well and I could see how I can utilize that knowledge to be of service to the board. Furthermore, as a proponent of sustainable development, I was particularly drawn to The Addis Clinic’s model of providing support to physicians and clinicians on the ground, as opposed to sending foreign doctors to do the work.
In my service to the board, I went to the Mufindi District in Tanzania at the end of March to meet with prospective partners. Since there had been prior communication with the prospective partners suggesting that a member of The Addis Clinic could visit the facilities in Tanzania, I ended up going as the organization’s representative and to provide telemedicine training. Given the geographical location of Mufindi, access to medical care remains a challenge in this Tanzanian district in the southern highlands, because the villages are not close to major hospitals that can provide a wide range of treatment. Additionally, the communities are connected by rough, unpaved roads, making the journey to seek medical care more time and resource consuming.
During my time in Mufindi, I witnessed that the residents of that area primarily depend on subsistence farming or manual labor to make a living. Thus, their income is rather low and is typically allocated towards household needs and educating the kids where possible. So, when one is faced with dire medical needs, it can be challenging to even afford such treatment.
When I visited the Unilever Hospital, Mufindi Children’s Village, Village Schools International and the Care and Treatment Centre – a local clinic, I met with physicians, clinicians and community health workers who provide health services to HIV-positive individuals, orphans, and the Mufindi community members. All health care providers were thrilled to hear about the work of The Addis Clinic, and that they can consult on difficult cases with physicians in the U.S. and receive feedback within a short period. The fact that this service would ease financial constraints brought about by referring patients to distantly located hospitals was particularly appealing to them.
By partnering with local clinicians, I believe that The Addis Clinic will be able to provide much-needed support in terms of consultations. The clinicians in this area will be able to reach more patients and treat them in a shorter time frame and for a lot less than before. I also believe that by allowing the local physicians and clinicians to remain the primary providers of care interacting with the patients, it fosters professional development and secures employment for the referring clinicians, and preserves the cultural integrity of the patients who get treated by people who understand them culturally.