Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burundi needs more surgeons

Last week I had the chance to go to two conferences in Bujumbura.  The first was a conference of the Christian Medical Association of Burundi.  Tuesday morning, Eric, Alyssa and I piled into the van with about 12 medical students for the 3 hour drive to Bujumbura.  It was a great conference, filled with stories of God's grace and provision in so many ways.  We drove back to Kibuye that afternoon.  Then on Thursday, Jason and I piled into the van again with about 12 medical students for a 2 day conference of the Burundian Society for Surgeons.  It was fascinating for me to learn more about the state of surgery all over the country.  I recently learned that there are only about 15 general surgeons in Burundi (a country of over 10 million people) and from what I understand, they all work in the capital, Bujumbura (aside from Jason).  I also learned that there are 3 other anesthesiologists (Reanimateurs) in Burundi, all of whom work in the capital.

After being here for 2 months, one thing that is obvious is that Jason needs help.  He needs help because there are so many people here who need surgery.  He works 7 days a week and there is just not enough time to operate on everyone who needs surgery.  He does general surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, and urology.  And he would love some help.

During this surgery conference I also got to learn a bit more about Jason's vision for Kibuye.  He wants to start a residency program for graduating medical students who want to become general surgeons.  In order to do this though he needs a second surgeon and a long term anesthesiologist.  At the conference I learned that Burundi once had a general surgery residency program which involved 2 years of training in Bujumbura, then 2 years in France, then one more year in Bujumbura.  Sadly, this program was shut down during the civil war, and has yet to be re-started.  Another problem is that most of the surgeons trained in this program left for greener pastures (or wealthier pastures) and the other problem is that those who stayed all work in the capital.  There is no one (aside from Jason) working in rural Burundi.  

So, where is the hope?  Well, there was an announcement made at this meeting that pending the approval of the East African Coalition for Surgery, Burundi plans to re-start the surgery residency program next year.  This is good news, but obviously it would be years before anyone finished this program and is ready to practice alone.  Jason also got to meet with the other general surgeons at this conference and expressed his interest in starting a program at Kibuye as well. The other surgeons welcomed him and seemed very receptive to his plans.   It was also encouraging to meet several of the graduating medical students who very much want to become surgeons. 

This week a visiting surgeon who was a resident in Kenya under Jason arrived to serve here for a month.  It is greatly encouraging to meet this woman who has already benefited from the heart for teaching that God has given Jason.  I feel like her being here has given me a window into the future of surgery in Burundi.  And there is hope.

Eric speaking at the Christian medical conference (they informed him the night before the conference that he was one of the speakers).

Dinner Friday night in Bujumbura, with Jason and three of the medical students eager to enter into surgery.  One of them from Uganda, one from Kenya and one from Burundi .... and we are eating at an Ethiopian restaurant.  It was truly a pan-African experience.

1 comment: