My dear friend, Dr Gudata Hinika, had a big dream of building a hospital in the rural Ethiopia where he grew up. It took many years of hard work, but finally Negele Arsi General Hospital and Medical College opened its door to the community in July 2017. Dr Hinika, a general surgeon/trauma surgeon in Los Angeles, asked me to undertake the first educational trip to the hospital, work with the local surgeons, transfer the knowledge and skills to them so that they will be sufficient to provide the care to the community. They have three general surgeons, who covered general surgery, trauma, orthopedic, and OB/GYN. Because there are many trauma and burn injuries, the primary goal was to learn safe and reliable way of performing skin grafting. In addition, they have cleft lip and palate patients, who had no means to receive surgical care. I visited the hospital site 4 years ago shortly after they broke the ground. Now, looking the hospital, it is mighty impressive that we got a hospital in this remote area on earth. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the community residents. Once the clinic started the following day, the hospital was filled with the patients, asking for the consultation and examination. We operated on a major amputee with a large open wound, burn contracture of the neck and face, as well as traumatic avulsion of the lip from a human bite. In addition, there were three children with cleft lip and palate. Working with general surgeons, Dr Segni, Dr Daniel, and Dr Bayena, we performed skin graft (both split thickness and full thickness) and local flap procedures, and repair of the cleft lip and palate. The children we repaired lips will need palate repair next year. I gave a lecture to the medical staff and nursing staff on one morning.
Even though it was a short stay, the enthusiasm of the surgeons and nursing staff is palpable, and it was a great experience to work with them, teach them, and be part of the campaign to improve the health of the rural community. There were patients came all the way from Addis Abeba seeking medical opinions.
The hospital was built on the hope, by the goodwill of the people supporting the project from the US. Now, it is their turn to make the project sustainable and develop a truly community based medical center. I sure will revisit the hospital to contribute to this challenging endeavor.