Cardiac Surgery at a Rural Mission Hospital

Russ White, MD

Missionary medicine has long been assumed by many to include the basics, such as public health measures related to immunizations and sanitation, and primary care including treatment of infectious diseases, prenatal care, and obstetrics. Surgical care on the mission field has often been thought to be purely focused on emergency surgical care. While these efforts continue to be valid, recent reports have documented the relative importance of chronic illness upon the developing world. In this session, we will look at one area of subspecialty surgery which has the opportunity to have a massive impact upon the developing world. We will examine the general epidemiology of rheumatic heart disease on a world-wide basis and consider the need for cardiac surgery in the developing world. Furthermore, we will look at the example of Tenwek Hospital in Kenya developing a cardiac surgical program, and the impact it has had upon the patients and staff of the hospital. We will look at the hurdles which must be overcome to initiate such a program, and the physical and spiritual blessings which can abound.