I was recently blessed to spend time with some physicians whose faith has driven them to great personal sacrifice for the welfare of others. We are overwhelmed with information glamorizing the pursuit of personal pleasure, self-glorification, and material gain. I wanted to share this experience on my website because we don’t hear enough about people like these, whose lives reflect the faith they claim. Their work is inspiring.
Dan Galat is an orthopaedic surgeon in Kijabe, Kenya who serves at the Kijabe AIC Mission Hospital. Dan moved to Kenya with his wife, Heather, and their children seven years ago. He had just completed orthopaedic surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic. Instead of seeking personal enrichment or professional advancement as most of us do, they chose to serve others by moving to Africa under the auspices of Samaritan’s Purse/World Medical Mission. They originally served at Tenwek Mission Hospital, where indigent patients with dire needs are cared for. While working long hours repairing open fractures and neglected musculoskeletal injuries, tumors, and infections, Dan built an orthopaedic surgery training program in an effort to expand care opportunities and sustainable healthcare for Kenyans. Through his efforts, the first orthopaedic residency program recognized by the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) was founded. 56 million people in Africa are in dire need of surgical care. In many places in Africa there is only one surgeon of any type for every 250,000 to 2.5 million people. While there are many locations globally with severe medical needs, there are few that approach the desperation seen here. PAACS was founded to try to address this need. PAACS, a commission of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA), is a non-denominational multinational Christian service organization which trains African physicians to become surgeons who are willing to remain in Africa and serve the needy. They currently have 9 general surgery, 1 orthopaedic surgery, and 1 pediatric surgery training programs in Tanzania, Gabon, Niger, Egypt, Kenya (2), Malawi, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. These programs are supported by partner organizations such as Samaritans Purse/World Medical Mission, CMDA, Medical Teams International, and other relief organizations, but rely primarily on the work of long-term medical missionaries like Dr. Galat, who dedicate their lives to treat critically-ill people and teach others to do the same. They are supported by physicians and medical personnel who use their skills to supplement the work done at mission hospitals and provide some level of professional relief, usually for periods of 2-4 weeks, but also longer when possible. The residents they train multiply their efforts far beyond what each could accomplish individually, by planting long-term sources of indigent care in neglected regions. Some of these places have life expectancies of 50 years, infant mortality of 50%, and HIV prevalence approaching 40% in the general population.
The level of medical illness and surgical challenge encountered by these people is difficult to describe. High volumes of severe, often life-threatening acute and chronically-neglected trauma, infections, congenital malformations, and tumors to an extent that is never seen in our country. Death is common and suffering is pervasive. Combine this with depleted and often non-existent medical resources and the problem is overwhelming. This calls for unusual levels of perseverance and spiritual strength in the medical personnel who attempt to relieve their suffering.
What I find truly amazing is the large number of doctors, nurses, and associated medical and support personnel who dedicate their lives for the welfare of these people. We rarely if ever hear about them in the media. But they are there, and most of them will spend their lives working in these very hard places with no economic or public reward. Their faith drives them to this service. In places like Mbingo, Cameroon, where 5 full-time American physicians and their families live and work in a former leprosy hospital treating the sick in mountain jungles, or Kijabe, Kenya, where Dr. Galat and at least 5 other full-time foreign doctors live and serve with their families. One of these is Erik Hansen, who directs the pediatric surgery program and operates on hundreds of babies born with congenital deformities that are heart-wrenching to see. Eric trained here in Birmingham at UAB, and formerly attended the Church at Brook Hills. He has lived in Kijabe for 6 years with his wife Amanda and their children. In addition to treating the constant human suffering that arrives in Kijabe, Erik visits refugee camps to bring back those in most desperate need. Without doctors like these, these children and adults would have little hope of physical healing. They also provide spiritual hope that only comes through God by praying with and for these patients. As Easter approaches this week, it is good to remember people like these who live out their faith.
If you would like to support these efforts either financially or by visiting and working with these men and women, here are contact information.
Happy Easter and God bless.
Dr. Galat: www.wgm.org/galat www.wgm.org/orthofund
World Gospel Mission P.O. Box 948 Marion, IN 46952
Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons
PO Box 9906 Fayetteville, NC 28311
Samaritan’s Purse/World Medical Mission