Dr. Maria Huang is a board-certified pediatrician who trained at The Children's Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham. Last January, during her last year of residency, Dr. Huang joined us for a medical mission to Voi, Kenya. Voi is a bustling city along the Nairobi-Mombassa highway and a new church was planted there this past January. As we are gearing up for our next medical mission to Kenya this upcoming January 2016, it would be appropriate to look back at the impact JHM is having through our missions efforts. Through this medical missions effort, we were able to treat over 1500 patients in the course of 5 days which which enabled the planting of a thriving church in Southern Kenya. The following is some of Dr. Huang's reflections on her experience treating patients:
30-60 patients a day. Families of up to six. An entire class of schoolchildren arriving with their teacher. Half-page hand-written notes. No imaging. No lab tests. An office boarded by curtains, fitted with a wooden table and several plastic chairs. Light streaming from a cut-out square in the wall. Rotating, volunteer Swahili interpreters. This was medicine in rural Kenya.
We relied on our history-taking and physical exam skills. We returned to basics. For residents who practice in the developed world, bringing medicine back to the basics was a tremendous opportunity. I don’t mean just in guiding us toward a diagnosis and treatment. I also mean the relationships that are built at the bedside . . . or in this case, just beside the patient, whether he were sitting in a chair, or fidgeting next to his mother. In the U.S., we are mired in technology, electronic documentation, and the demands of a busy, buzzing institution that needs to meet production demands. More often than not, I spend more time in front of a computer than at the bedside. Not so in Kenya. There, we focused on the patient. We honed the skills we were taught in medical school, the skills that cannot be measured: listening, compassion, and empathy. We ministered to our patients medically, emotionally, and spiritually. We built trust with individuals and fellowship with the community.
After our medical work for the day was complete, we gathered with the local residents -three-quarters which were children - in the evening. Their singing, dancing, and giving praise to the Lord were infectious and even the most reluctant in the crowd were on their feet and clapping their hands. Despite the long and busy days, the joy and enthusiasm at our evening celebrations were strangely energizing, and I always felt renewed and ready for the next day. Our Kenyan friends welcomed and accepted everyone, and I felt immediately embraced by the community.
I write this from Alabama now, but I still feel the bond with our brothers and sisters in Kenya. They demonstrated warmth and kindness, taught me humility and resilience, allowed me to practice my favorite parts of medicine, and gave me the honor of serving beside them. I cannot quite put into words how this experience has affected me since I am still processing it, but I will say that there is something powerful about the relationships created that week because they are the foundation for a fellowship that will continue long after.
Please join us in praying for the medical mission this upcoming January! If you would like to partner with us, please click on TAKE ACTION above to see what YOU can do to help.