While RVUers back home were braving the chill of January, a group of 17 third- and fourth-year students were in Kenya, providing health care to the people of the Kimana district, a dry and remote region located near Mount Kilimanjaro. The students were led by Camille Z. Bentley, DO, MPH, FACOFP, Chair of Tracks and Special Programs, and joined by several health care professionals. The outreach trip was sponsored by Hands for Health Foundation (which was co-founded by Dr. Bentley), in conjunction with RVUCOM. Leading up to the trip, Taylor Reiser, OMS III, coordinated and raised money to build water filters for each village they would be visiting. “There are always issues with lack of access to clean water, so the filters were widely welcomed,” Dr. Bentley said.
The group’s first stop was Kibo Slopes, which served as a “home base” for the volunteers during their two-week stay. The cottages at Kibo Slopes proved to be an oasis for the group with good food, hot water for showers, and even WiFi. Each day, they traveled by bus for up to three hours, setting up sites at a total of 13 different villages, as well as two church communities during the trip. Away from Kibo Slopes, the volunteers worked in austere conditions: no electricity, running water, or bathrooms; hot and dusty days; no food or drinking water except for what each person carried in. The volunteers brought a well-stocked pharmacy, supplies, medicines, and an ultrasound machine to each site. They worked in tents or in the shade, providing medical care to approximately 2,000 patients, treating maladies from wounds and worms to skin disorders and gynecological issues. Each RVUCOM student personally treated 15 patients per day.
The students rotated through the pharmacy and triage areas, which allowed everybody to gain experience at different stages of treatment. Other valuable skills they honed were taking a history, performing a physical exam, working on a health care team, prescribing medications, presenting cases, and working with a translator. “I learned so much and had the most hands-on experience since beginning medical school,” said Nisa Fraser, OMS III. “I cauterized skin tags, [drained] abscesses, ran labs, and removed the extra digits of a baby with polydactyly. The trip solidified my desire to pursue a pediatric residency, which was a truly enlightening experience for me.” Gurpreet Kaur, OMS III, added, “I did an [incision and drainage] of a foot abscess. To see the relief on the person’s face was moving. We had translators to help with the language barrier but at that moment, we didn’t need one. We could feel his every emotion as he shook our hands.” Dr. Bentley concluded, “This was an excellent trip and a great medical learning and personal growth experience for the students…[they] did very well.”