I left Vanderbilt, my family and comfort zone with the intention to serve for a month in Kenya as a medical missionary; however, it was much more an experience of personal growth and learning. I arrived in Kijabe and after getting settled in my room and being shown around the complex, I was greeted on the wards by my mentor for the next month, Dr. Catherine Chen. I was immediately directed to the OR to witness Dr. Sizemore—who had arrived the day prior—perform a fairly rudimentary diagnostic laparoscopy. And so my trip had begun! That night, I learned why they called it the “place of the wind,” given the howling and swirling winds outside my room.
From day one, I was part of the Kijabe OB/GYN team. We had daily teaching rounds on the ward patients. On Mondays and Thursdays I assisted in GYN cases—abdominal myomectomies, total abdominal hysterectomies, diagnostic laparoscopies, and even a couple Urogynecology cases, including an autologous rectus fascial sling. I gave several Monday afternoon lectures to the Medical and Clinical Officers. On Wednesdays, we performed elective cesarean sections, which ranged from 7 to 11 cases, which I served as the teaching assistant or primary surgeon. Fridays were devoted to gynecology specialty clinic, seeing between 40-60 patients in a day, mostly evaluating infertility, symptomatic fibroid uteri, and of course, referrals for cervical other gynecologic malignancies. It was a busy service month, but overall very rewarding.
On Thursday nights, I was invited into Dr. Chen’s home for a family dinner. I also had some time on the weekends to explore and take in the local culture and community. I very was lucky to have one of my best friends from medical school to travel with, as well as couple other Vanderbilt residents from both anesthesia and surgery, who happened to be abroad at the same time. My time at AIC Kijabe hospital was life changing and I truly believe the individuals on the team I worked and the patients I cared for made as much, if not more, of an impact on my life, as I did on theirs.
I concluded my trip with yet another adventure—a safari to the Masai Mara National Conservatory, where I was blessed to witnessed the wildness and beauty of the African savannah. My favorite animal being the Giraffe! Kenya and Kijabe will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that our residency program will continue to foster a professional working relationship with the AIC Kijabe Hospital, so that other residents can have similar rewarding global outreach experiences.
PGY-3 Amanda Merriman, MD, MPH