Building Surgical Capacity at FAME Medical


Dr. Frank and Dr. Loie in outpatient clinic

Dr. Frank and Dr. Loie in outpatient clinic

In clinic one day, a woman presented with signs of appendicitis.  Dr. Msuya and Dr. Lisso recommended appendectomy, and we proceeded to the “operating theater”.  She was skillfully put under general anesthesia by one of FAME’s two nurse anesthesists. As we were halfway through the procedure, I could have closed my eyes and felt like I was in any operating room anywhere in the world, as it is an environment so consistent to those of us who spend much of our lives in them.  The familiarity of being in gown and glove. The sterile field. The friendly chatter.  The sound of the cautery machine. Sometimes the music or the jokes. But always the sense of teamwork and the intense focus when the procedure calls for it.

This really rang true when toward the end of the procedure, I felt a little something moving on my shoulder.  It was Siana, the scrub nurse, doing what all of us do when our nose itches and we can’t scratch it with our sterile gloves:  we rub our nose on the shoulder of the person next to us.  I laughed out loud because that same gesture occurs zillions of times per day in operating rooms around the globe.

FAME’s two operating rooms are beautiful.  Nice lights. Natural light through windows. Pristine clean. Cabinets housing supplies of all kinds.  What is remarkable is that it is revolutionary in the region.

You see, in places like East Africa, and other low or middle income countries, death rates are high for common, easily treatable conditions like appendicitis, hernia, obstructed labor, bowel obstruction, and burns, for lack of surgical capability. Last year, the global health attention was riveted on the report of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, which reported that 5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care when needed.  In addition, the absence of a safe blood supply is a crucial problem globally in treating surgical conditions.

FAME, by virtue of offering primary surgical services, reliable anesthesia services, and a safe blood supply through its own collection, offers residents of the Karatu region what many in the world do not have. 

Our patient did well and went home in a day.  While at FAME I participated in procedures such as C-section, hernia, tonsillectomy, burn management, breast abscess, and appendectomy. Using teaching tools from UCSF that included videos, knot tying boards, suture practice materials, we had fun working on surgical skills. FAME, you all are awesome! 

Susan Gustafson