ECU Field Journal: Africa

“I would very much love for the hospital to provide a venue for medical students and residents who would wish to gain an experience in international medicine,” said Odeke.

He has previous experience with doing just that. In 2006, he visited Kadami with a small contingent from the Brody School of Medicine that included medical students Bryan and Mary Dawson, nurse Linda Basden, and photographer Larry Basden.

When they arrived in the village, word spread quickly and soon the villagers had erected a makeshift clinic for them to see patients in. Before it was even completed, hundreds of people had gathered, hoping for care.

“If you are [a doctor] in America, you can focus on one patient at a time. In emergency medicine, you may even have several, but not hundreds like we saw there,” said Bryan Dawson, now a senior emergency medicine resident in the ECU Emergency Medicine Residency. “

It was overwhelming to see that kind of unmet need. And they are no less deserving of medical services than anyone else in the world.”

Without help from Dr. Odeke, this man’s thyroid goiter could have become life-threatening.

Since that visit, Odeke has received requests from other medical students wanting to go to Kadami for an internationally designed elective.

“[The students] thought it was a tremendous learning experience. They were put in a situation where they had to make a sound clinical judgment with the barest of material provisions. They did not have MRIs, they did not have CT scans, or X-rays to rely on. They benefited more from listening to the patient, getting a history, and trying to get as close as possible to a diagnosis without relying heavily on labs and other investigative procedures,” said Odeke.

Without proper accommodations for students, and without a proper clinic, Odeke knows that he cannot return with more students. He hopes that will change upon completion of the first phase of the project, which will include an outpatient clinic and residences for nurses and medical staff in which students could stay. Dawson agrees with Odeke’s assessment that students will want to come to Kadami.

“I think once [the clinic] is up and running, it has great potential to provide learning opportunities to medical students,” he said. “I think a lot of medical students have an interest in travel and seeing the way medicine is practiced in other parts of the world. And I think a lot of people would be interested in those types of opportunities if they were ready-made.”

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If Odeke ever decides to leave medicine, he could be a successful corporate executive. His plan for the Kadami Hospital Project is measured, attainable, and well-organized. Its chance for success is enhanced by Odeke's understanding and careful consideration of the people, culture, and politics of the area.

His insistence on community involvement may prove to be the key to long-term success. He has brokered partnerships with community and government leaders and has even had discussions with the Ugandan Minister of Health about the need for government-salaried doctors, nurses, and medical staff for the hospital. His credibility and reputation in the community are unmatched because he has already demonstrated an ability to get things done.

The people of Kadami used to get water for drinking, cooking, and bathing from hand-dug holes near a local swamp. The water they collected was contaminated, and as a result many suffered from water-borne diseases. Odeke could see the heavy toll that disease was taking on the community and knew that clean water would significantly improve the situation there.

In 2004, Odeke saw to the drilling of two deep-water wells in Kadami that now provide clean drinking water to the village and local primary school. He funded the project with donations from colleagues at the Brody School of Medicine and more than $4,000 of his own money. The wells decreased the prevalence of diseases like dysentery, typhoid, and cholera and marked Odeke’s first victory in his fight to improve health in Kadami.

But it is Odeke’s almost reverent belief in transparency and accountability that has helped the project raise nearly $40,000 from private donors. Kadami hospital is now the main project of Friends of Kadami, an approved 501(c)(3) not for profit organization incorporated and based in the State of North Carolina. He understands that people will only give if they can believe their money will be used properly. Learn more at the Friends of Kadami Web site.

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