Departments of Surgery and Anesthesiology Build Capacity and Provide Care to Patients in Kampala, Uganda
Medical access remains a challenge for many across the globe. In many countries, routine preventative care and simple surgical procedures are out of reach for most citizens due to a shortage of medical professionals and the cost of care. Eager to go beyond research in the fight for global health equity, Dr. Gregory Beilman and Dr. Jeffrey Chipman in the Medical School’s Department of Surgery established a surgical camp in Uganda seven years ago to give U of M surgeons and anesthesiologists a chance to give back.
After taking a three year break during the COVID-19 pandemic, the surgical camp returned to Uganda this spring for two one-week opportunities. Roughly a dozen surgeons, anesthesiologists and residents from the U of M made the trip.
“This gives us an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way,” Dr. Beilman says of the experience. “The patients are in a setting where the opportunity to receive the care that we can provide is not available to them.”
Roughly fifteen years ago, Drs. Beilman and Chipman learned of a new hospital in Kampala through Dr. Tim Schacker, who was doing HIV research in Uganda. The hospital, originally called the Ruth Gaylor Hospital and now known as the Gary Holmes Hospital, was interested in a partnership with the Medical School.
“This was made possible by our partners and colleagues at M Health Fairview, who were willing to donate the equipment and disposables that it took for us to take care of patients the first go around,” Dr. Beilman says.
From there, annual follow-up visits were planned. During the surgical camps, providers screen patients and perform straightforward operations that can be performed without a lot of complications, such as removing subcutaneous bumps, superficial surgeries and hernia operations.
This year, the teams met with 130 Ugandan patients recruited by the Gary Holmes Hospital for screening. Of those, 50 patients were identified that could be operated on. However, Dr. Beilman says that the purpose of the trips is deeper than simply performing surgery.
“One of the things that we are very interested in doing is helping build capacity in Uganda,” explains Dr. Beilman. “If we can help Ugandan surgeons, anesthesiologists and residents learn from us about how to more efficiently care for patients, that allows them to care for more and more patients moving forward.”
The team works closely with doctors at the Gary Holmes Hospital as well as with residents at Makerere University to increase the knowledge and capacity of Ugandan healthcare professionals to provide these surgical services.
Being able to receive necessary operations free of charge is life changing for many of the patients Dr. Beilman and his team see.
“A recent patient had an umbilical hernia in her belly button. When we were operating on her, we found an abnormal mass that was concerning for cancer,” Dr. Beilman recalls. “We fixed the hernia, then we were able to support getting pathology done on this abnormal mass and identify that it was not cancer, relieving her of the concern that she would not be able to raise her children.”
Dr. Beilman and Dr. Chipman will lead a team back to Uganda in 2024. Financial support for travel is available for residents, and those interested should email email@example.com for more information.