ECU Field Journal: Africa

“When I was visiting home, one of the village chiefs came to me and said that they had a meeting that they wanted me to attend. They were exploring ways that they could get a hospital there,” he said. “I went to the meeting and afterwards I told them that this was precisely what had been on my mind to do for a long time, but that I did not know where to begin. I told them that I would help, but I made it clear to them that I wasn’t going to build them a hospital. It was going to have to be a community project.”

With that, the Kadami Hospital Project was born. Odeke helped formulate a plan calling for the construction of a 70-bed hospital in Kadami. It will have wards for internal medicine, surgery, OBGYN, and pediatrics, and will also include a birthing facility, dining hall and kitchen, outpatient clinic, and accommodations for nurses and medical assistants. The plan even includes ambulance service to help expand its effective range of care. It will immediately become the finest medical facility for hundreds of miles, and with future expansion, could provide care to upwards of half a million people.

“It is a project that I feel very passionately about,” said Odeke. “It has a great potential to improve the welfare of the common man and his family in a very economically deprived region of Uganda.”

Odeke is the only doctor from Kadami, and as a result he is the face of the project—fundraising in the United States and meeting with government officials in Uganda. He considers his role to be that of a facilitator, and is quick to deflect praise. If anyone is to be praised for this project, he believes it should be the community members who are doing the work on the ground.

“I thought that if everyone in the community contributed, it would give them a sense of ownership over the project. When I told [the village elders] the idea, they very much welcomed it. They elected community leaders from the surrounding counties, and those representatives then went out and started educating people in the counties regarding the project and to encourage them to donate,” said Odeke.

To that end, the community donated 30 acres of land upon which to build the hospital, and each citizen over the age of 18 has been asked to either donate enough money to purchase 25 bricks to be used in the construction of the buildings, or to make 25 bricks—something that even the poorest in the community can do.

The response has been so positive that Odeke expects the community to contribute 250,000 bricks by November 1, the date the project committee in Kadami has set for the groundbreaking of the hospital’s first phase.

•  • • •   •

In 2004, Dr. Odeke helped drill wells in Kadami to provide clean water.

Sylvester Odeke was born in Kadami. After completing medical school in Uganda, he continued his education at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where he received both a diploma and a master’s degree in tropical medicine. He always wanted to do post-graduate training in the United States, and he was able to complete his residency training at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, and complete a fellowship at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. After practicing medicine for two years in Australia, he joined the Brody School of Medicine’s endocrinology division.

At Brody, Odeke is fortunate to work at an institution that is nationally ranked in the area of rural medicine. It is a daily reminder of the goal he set for himself many years ago—to find a way to provide health care to the rural population of Kadami.

Odeke sees a similarity between eastern North Carolina and Kadami in the sense that they are both very large rural populations. But based on the degree of need and poverty in the two regions, he says, there really is no comparison.

“People there are on their own,” he said.

The Kadami Hospital Project will improve public health, but Odeke believes it can heal an ailing economy as well. He only has to look at eastern North Carolina to see the economic benefit of a thriving health-care industry. He is hopeful that economic opportunity will follow the hospital in Kadami as well.

Odeke also believes the Kadami hospital can offer learning opportunities to East Carolina’s medical students, and hopes to cultivate a relationship with the Brody School of Medicine once the hospital is completed.

Page 2 of 4  <-- previous page