KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
In the four weeks I spent in the Kabale, Kigezi Region, Uganda, I learned so much about the world, global health, and who I was as a student, health care provider, and person. KIHEFO provided me with so many opportunities to explore what I already knew about health care and were so helpful in exposing me to a completely new ideology. They were never condescending and answered every question with thorough and well-articulated explanations. Every doctor and nurse I met had some piece of information that added to the puzzle of global health being put together in my head. All the staff at KIHEFO are so invested in their professions and in passing along the passion for the mission “to fight disease, poverty, and ignorance using a sustainable and integrated approach.” They exponentially improve the education provided to CFHI students with their personal stories and willingness to let us participate in every part of the rural, clinical, and general portions of daily life at KIHEFO.
Our lovely apartment manager (read: lifesaver), Patricia, was an inspiration to all. We came to discover that she had grown up as one of six children and left home to provide for her family but was stuck in a job that paid around $30/month. It was amazing to see how far she had come as she was close to finishing university despite such a difficult start. However, we quickly learned from our community outreaches that hers was not the case for most. The outreaches were absolutely one of the most invaluable parts of the whole experience. It is amazing to watch a singular school be organized into a fully functional clinic with a general clinic, maternal/antenatal, lab, and pharmacy with enough staff to handle 200+ patients in only 4-5 hours. While most of my time was spent in the general clinic, I was welcomed in the other departments as well. In general, the doctors/PAs always took the time to explain the symptoms the patient presented with, the diagnosis they made and how the symptoms lead to it, and the prescriptions/recommendations they gave to the patient. In between patients, I was able to learn the Rukiga words for greetings, filling out patient information, and common ailments such as pain, numbness, and ulcer. Bruce, a PA, was especially untiring of my questions and even took the time to teach me how to take blood pressure manually and let me practice on him.
In the general clinic, I was able to have experiences like watching a copper IUD put in a woman who was six weeks post-partum and learn about cervical cancer screening when more advanced methods were not accessible. I also had the chance to help with first aid on motor cycle accident victims who had traveled from the border town of Katuna all the way to KIHEFO for treatment. That experience really solidified my intent to become an emergency physician. In both maternal and general, I was able to expand my knowledge of birth control methods, their effectiveness, and their use in Uganda versus in the US. It was so interesting to see how diagnosis, treatment, and regulation of chronic conditions varied between the two cultures I have been privileged enough to experience.
While I was unable to experience a day in the HIV clinic, nutrition center, or lab due to an injury, I heard nothing but positive experiences from the friends I met through KIHEFO. They also handled my injury without even batting an eye and were incredibly accommodating. I have nothing but good to say about my experience with CFHI and KIHEFO. The staff we lived daily life with, the doctors, PAs, and nurses, and Carol, our coordinator, were all so sweet and helpful. I can’t imagine having such an amazing experience anywhere else and I cannot wait to come back as a pediatric emergency physician, a career I wouldn’t have found my passion for without KIHEFO.
Story by Sarah Scherbring
Student Intern (CFHI-KIHEFO)