There is a familiar saying in Cameroon, says missionary surgeon James Allen Brown, MD, FACS: "If you provide the service, the patients will come."
"There is almost never a day I don't see something I've never seen before, or do something (surgery) I've never done," says Dr. Brown.
The unassuming South Carolinian has, since 2007, spent nearly all of his time living and working in the West African nation of Cameroon, at MBingo Baptist Hospital, saving lives as chief of surgery and growing young minds as surgical resident program director under the auspice of the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS).
Gundersen Medical Foundation welcomed Dr. Brown and invited him to speak thanks to mentee Brendon Esquibel, MD, a third year Surgery resident, who met Dr. Brown in the Cameroon during medical school. "The Global Burden of Disease: A Strategic Response in Africa" is the name of his Oct. 13 presentation.
PAACS takes a fundamentally inspiring approach to improving surgical care in impoverished African countries with the vision to train African Christian surgeons in a five year, accredited postgraduate surgical residency program. The training takes place in Christian mission hospitals in Africa, with the goal that the graduates will remain in Africa at the end of their training for a lifetime of service in their home countries.
Today they are training 76 residents and there is at least one program graduate in 19 different African countries. All but one graduate returned to serve in his/her home nation—one died, caring for Ebola patients, in Sierra Leone.
As key learnings Dr. Brown shared from a 2015 Lancet study show: Basic surgery access is an indispensable component of integrated healthcare, crossing all disease categories; and investment in surgery and access to it to drive economic stability.
There are the barriers of cost, transportation to distance facilities, languages and access to trained surgeons who can give their patients a chance at a productive life: A child with an easily correctible impairment such as club feet cannot survive daily life in a place like Cameroon when he cannot walk, let alone help provide for a family. But with a surgeon's help, a cycle of hardship and poverty can be broken.
Gundersen Medical Foundation Surgical Residency plans a surgical rotation in Cameroon in 2018 for Surgery resident Brendon Esquibel, MD and Surgery resident Humera Ahmad, MD.
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