Hands On – Action on Fistula provides Kenyan surgeons with intensive training

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Action on Fistula provides Kenyan surgeons with intensive training. “The training has been quite hectic,” writes Dr. Anthony Wanjala. “We are barely finding time to rest. We have so far seen almost the entire range of fistula cases, right from the simplest to the most complex.” He adds, “This is awesome and my confidence has grown over these few weeks.”

In February, Action on Fistula’s third group of surgeon trainees began a six-week fellowship with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). Part of the three-year Action on Fistula initiative in Kenya, funded by Astellas Pharma EMEA, the training program includes lectures and hands-on training under FIGO-certified surgeons, like Dr. Hillary Mabeya at Gynocare Fistula Center. After training, the doctors are certified as standard level fistula surgeons and bring their new skills back to the communities where they live and work.

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FIGO fellows receive training at Gynocare Fistula Center in Eldoret, Kenya.

Dr. Wanjala, an OB/GYN at Malava Hospital in western Kenya, was a student of Dr. Mabeya’s at Moi University School of Medicine. Over the years, he says, he became familiar with Dr. Mabeya’s work with fistula patients, “basically giving them a chance to live again.” During medical school, he often spent his free evenings observing Dr. Mabeya in surgery. “It was just fun watching him operate,” he says. Dr. Mabeya took time to explain things as he worked, and Dr. Wanjala began assisting. “The interest developed, and with time, it just consumed me,” he says.

Surgeon trainee Dr. Carey Francis Otulo has been a practicing gynecologist for 10 years, currently at Homa Bay District Hospital, near Lake Victoria in western Kenya. He has experience operating on simple fistula cases at Amref Health Africa and UNFPA camps, and he hopes, after the training, to be able to handle more complicated cases.

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Dr. Otulo visits with a patient in the ward at Gynocare Fistula Center in Kenya.

Both surgeons note the psychosocial aspects of fistula care, something FIGO emphasizes during training. Until now, Dr. Wanjala says, “Doing this kind of learning has been largely confined to the operating room. I want to fill in the other areas, and I want to be able to view these women with fistula holistically.”

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of our newsletter, Transformations.

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