Douglas Matsunaga MD – 2020 (Kenya)

In late February 2020 I had the privilege of participating in a two-week WIRE trip to the Tenwek Mission Hospital in Kenya with Dr. Ben Roberts. Located in the rural hills along the Rift Valley, Tenwek is a full-blown multi-specialty hospital with specialties ranging from neurosurgery to cardiology. Nestled on the top of a hill surrounded by tea plantations and farms, Tenwek at first seems oddly out of place- more suited for a city or large town. Yet its crowded main entrance makes clear the demand for its services and the quality of its expertise. With limited medical resources outside of large cities, patients travel for hours to be seen from communities ranging from the plains of the Maasai Mara to the suburbs of Nairobi.   

The eye hospital sits in a new building just up the road from the main hospital, and I admit feeling some pride wholly undeserved by myself in that it was one of the nicest facilities on campus. The clinic is a bustling open room and I was grateful to have the patient attention of an assistant throughout my clinic days who kindly oriented, translated and guided patients about for me. I was impressed by the diversity of patients and pathology with elderly mature cataracts being followed by infants with nasolacrimal duct obstruction. Even more impressive was the quality of care with state-of-the-art equipment available.  

The OR was a similarly satisfying experience. The surgical needs at Tenwek ranged widely from simple cataracts to MSICs and tractional retinal detachments. Over the years Dr. Roberts had assembled not just the requisite equipment, but also an outstanding team to provide for all of the patients’ needs. Seeing the cataract patients on their first postoperative visit was an immensely rewarding experience with vision restored from as poor as hand motion prior to surgery. After having spent several medical mission trips as a pre-med and medical student, it was an immensely rewarding experience to be able to return abroad and contribute with the full expertise and skills of a physician-surgeon.  

As my trip came to an end with the coronavirus pandemic taking off and countries around the world closing off, I wondered if I would make it home. After arriving home, I wondered if getting stuck would not have been such a bad thing. Needless to say, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to serve at the Tenwek Mission Hospital with Dr. Roberts and his team. The service being done there is an inspiration and was certainly a highlight of my time at Wills.