THE YOUNG PIONEERS


MOVING FORWARD TO DEVELOP NEUROSURGERY IN MOMBASSA (KENYA)

BEN OKANGA WITH FIRM STEP

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After finishing his training program in Neurosurgery under COSECSA project in Nairobi (Head, Dr. M. Qureshi) supported by WFNS Foundation, Dr. Ben Okanga started his pioneer activity in Neurosurgery at the Mombasa Coastal Hospital. The catchment area is over five millions inhabitants, that previously had almost never had access to modern neurosurgical care. WFNS Fundation did provide at no cost microscope and other equipment, and also a WFNS course was held in Dec 2017 to contribute to the kick-off of this endeavor.

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"KNOWLEDGE IS A BASIS OF WORK AS A NEUROSURGEON BUT CHARACTER, EMPATHY , GOOD RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERACTION WITH COLLEAGUES ARE ALSO IMPORTANT”

 

Was it easy to find this first and difficult job?

After completion of training, I was lucky to find that the Mombasa County Government where I worked had a need for a neurosurgeon. I formally applied for the position and went through the interview process and was accepted.

What have the neurosurgical practice in Mombasa meant for you?

Every day I learnt a lot of lessons from practicing as a neurosurgeon.The most important lessons are thorough patient assessment, proper patient selection and avoiding complications to the best of my ability.

Could you tell me some advices from the teacher who is not forgotten?

From my teachers, I learnt that knowledge is a key to deal with patients. The most important in patient care and their safety are widely consultations, requests for help, understanding one’s limits and time referrals.

Do you need to continue learning when you already have a job?

Every neurosurgeon must learn nonstop and keep up to date with new information knowledge and trends.

Is knowledge the most important thing in the process of searching a job?

Knowledge is a basis of work as a neurosurgeon. However, empathy, good relationships and interaction with colleagues, personal interests and hobbies are also important.

I would like to share with you my particular experience:

I was the only one applicant for my job. The hospital didn’t have a neurosurgeon more than 10 years. Dr(Brig.) Mulunga was retired and referred all complex cases to hospitals in Nairobi. There is lack of neurosurgeons in the country. 20 of 30 of them live and work in the capital. Rural and peripheral hospitals haven’t got enough resources to support neurosurgeons.  Before this position was advertised but no one would like to apply it. When I was accepted, I was uncertain how things would be. Since moving to Mombasa, I have been alone in the facility most of the time. Mr. Mahmoud Qureshi visited monthly and offered guidance and support from a senior and experienced colleagues. There are collaborative efforts with FIENS and NED foundation from Spain who come twice a year and organize missions. A lot of complex cases are dealt with during such missions. Most recently it was a mission led by Prof Jesus La Fuente from Spain. He visited the Coast General Hospital and carried out a mission for 2 weeks in December!

WFNS Foundation and Prof Yoko Kato’s Foundation supported Coast General Hospital tremendously. They donated an operating microscope, bipolar diathermy machine and basic sets. It was a long way by serving people in need. I try to continue my studying. I subscribed to online journals and forums. Every year I visit 4 regional conferences and symposia. During everyday routine I meet all kinds of patients and all sorts of situations and complications from which I learned a lot of lessons for myself.