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Medical need attracts commitment to Africa

by Gini Ikwuezunma
College of Medicine student
The global crisis has created a cascade of events that transcends the often myopic view of the average individual. As we battle soaring unemployment rates here in the states, nations, governments, communities and families around the world grapple on the brink of hunger and extinction. They find solace with meager wages to support themselves and care for their families. Yet they wonder what fate holds for them, when the next economic plunge ensues. The uncertainty is unbearable.
Gini Ikwuezunma

As an American of Nigerian descent, I witnessed the dire situation in Africa through the helpless eyes of a child. It has been six years since I last went to my ancestral homeland. Many of my relatives who were remnants of my fond childhood memories have died from substandard health conditions and preventable diseases. Armed with a stethoscope and a camera, I plan to revisit Africa as a more knowledgeable medical student and get the word out about the situation from the field, inspire others, and discover where my skills may be of use.
This summer, I am following the footsteps of one of my favorite heroes, protagonist Matt Parkman; and taking my “spirit walk,” and trekking to aid in medical mission work in Africa. The first portion of my trip will be in Masindi, Uganda through Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI), ( In Masindi, I will join more than 70 other medical students, faculty and local medical practitioners from the Lowcountry to provide clinical treatment to more than 5,000 villagers. It is the second mission for PMI. During its first mission in March, 25 medical students and clinicians treated 1,100 villagers in four days. We plan to multiply that by five during this trip.
After spending two weeks in Uganda, I will head to Tanzania with Madaktari, (, an unprecedented physician training mission founded and orchestrated by MUSC’s top neurosurgeons, Dilan Ellegala, M.D., and Sunil Patel, M.D. In Tanzania, I plan to spend about a month conducting outcomes research focused on creating sustainable specialty health care in Africa.
While In Africa, I also will visit Muhumbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI) in Dar es Salaam and hope to scrub in for a few procedures.

Learning from the field abroad
As a medical student, I have been interested in cardiology, but after my first year, the possibilities of impacting the field of medicine have been expanded to surgery. I also am increasingly interested in orthopaedics as I learn about the increasing mortality due to vehicular accidents abroad. Both paths align with my experiences as a collegiate athlete at the University of Georgia and community work through Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. This experience abroad would provide me with an opportunity to affect positive change through urban and global health policy while developing programs focused on youth advocacy.

On the move
Despite the recent economic obstacles, Africa is on the move. Hope drives innovation. Many change agents are vying for an opportunity to elevate the people of this continent to independence by utilizing common interests, galvanizing new relationships, sharing ideas and using social media such as Facebook. I hope to help them, and in the process document my trip and honor these unsung leaders who are doing phenomenal work.
As we address the issues created by the financial market meltdown, the health and psyche of thousands, quite possibly millions, slowly deteriorates. The people of Africa are in dire need of assistance and hope. They deserve our help. Their stories must be told, their voices heard and their health needs must be met.
This is “the road less traveled.” I am not capable of succeeding alone.
For information, call (678) 938-4443; or e-mail

Students return to Uganda as part of clinical mission

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
No flip-flops and bathing suits, but lots of insect repellant, patience and dedication are what MUSC medical missionaries will pack on a May mission in Masindi, Uganda.

During the second mission in as many months, more than 70 medical students, physicians, nurses and health professionals (i.e. physical therapists) will endure the African heat and rough terrain to treat more than 5,000 villagers.
In March, 25 MUSC students, including Will Carroll, Monique Huynh, and Brian Blaker; participated in the Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI) through which 1,100 villagers received treatment for various diseases and injuries in four days. Common types of conditions and diseases treated have included malaria, trachoma (eye infection), typhoid fever, hypertension, diarrhea, and head injuries.
Part of the Medical Campus Outreach conducted by the East Cooper Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, PMI was founded by Ed O’Bryan, M.D., Veterans Administration staff physician and clinical instructor in MUSC’s Department of Medicine.
Participants have included MUSC students and local medical practitioners. Soon students from the University of South Carolina are expected to participate, according to Marianne Heis, a PMI spokesperson.
PMI mission participants work from a small, one-story building under an agreement with the Ugandan health ministry. PMI has a five-year commitment through the church there to provide continued care through the Uganda mission.
More information on PMI and journals of students’ experiences in Uganda can be obtained at

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.