on training the next generation. . .
For the next 4 months at least, I am the interim medical education director in Kijabe. . .when I first agreed to do it, I thought I would have 12 medical officer interns and help them finish well, then welcome 12 more when they left.
Instead, the Kenyan Ministry of Health “posted” the new class a month early – and I found myself with 24 new doctors looking to me for help in the beginning and end of the one of the hardest years of their lives. We had so many challenges right away – we had to find housing for 12 new people that we hadn’t planned on for a month. We had to figure out how to incorporate them into a system without compromising anyone’s education. And I am learning the 500 other things that come along with the job. It is a daunting and incredibly important task.
Intern year in Kenya is a cross between residency/intern year and 3rd year of medical school. Medical school starts for them straight out of high school, and after 5 or 6 years, they are assigned to one of many centers in Kenya for their intern year. Our interns rotate through surgery, pediatrics, medicine, and obstetrics for 3 months each. At the end of the year, they should be able to resuscitate a baby, care for a prem, care for a baby in shock or with chronic malnutrition or tuberculosis. They also need to be able to do an appendectomy or cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal), fractures, and trauma patients, take care of a sick adult, do a c-section, successfully deliver a baby without complications, among hundreds of other things. And they do it while being on call 8-9 times a month with no “post call days” to leave the hospital early. It is a monumental task, and I am amazed at the amount of knowledge they are able to acquire and assimilate in one year.
When the graduating interns are assigned jobs next year they will be in some of the most undeserved and remote areas in Kenya and they will care for the most vulnerable, the most needy. And we want to do everything we can to teach them well. Because in one week, when this class leaves us, they will likely be one of the most senior medical practitioners in the place they are – teaching interns on their first day just like we have taught them.
We took them to lunch Wednesday, and they went around the table saying what their year had been like. The metaphors were different for each, but they spoke of climbing mountains, of long journeys, of doing more than they thought possible. They also spoke of growth of character, of strengthening of faith, of learning what it is to care for and listen to their patients. They spoke of being grateful for a system that works and consultants that were available to them. They spoke about finding the doctors they wanted to be when they grew up.
Every year a new group of the future leaders in Kenyan medicine will show up ready to learn, and every year we will do our best to meet them where they are. These doctors are one of the reasons I came to Kenya – to teach, to share the joy and passion I have for pediatrics – to hopefully help some of them find their love of caring for kids too – so that I can watch the beginning of my future colleagues careers. To show them that a few extra minutes at a bedside or a few less hours of sleep can have a huge impact on a parent or patient ‘s lives, attitudes, and outcomes.
To show them that being a physician is a holy privilege to be taken to heart every day.
Below are pictures of our graduating class – including one of my birthday “washing” (a tradition of dousing people with water on their birthday – I am choosing to take it as a compliment that they would all conspire with my husband and show up on their off time to surprise me, even if I did end up very, very wet.)