Reflections on developing pediatric neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa

In the article published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, Dr. Leland Albright provides a thoughtful retrospective of the years he committed to developing Pediatric Neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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He wrote in the article, “In 2011, the World Bank estimated the population of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to be 874,841,049, with 44% of the population being 1–14 years old (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/sub-saharan-africa/population-total-wb-data.html). Millions of children in SSA have hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and other common pediatric neurosurgical conditions.

Kijabe, Kenya, is a village of approximately 5000 people located 65 km northwest of Nairobi, at an altitude of 7220 feet within the Rift Valley Escarpment. It is home to Kijabe Hospital and was founded at that site by missionaries in 1915, because its elevation was too high for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. The hospital is a 283-bed general hospital under the auspices of the Africa Inland Church. Its consultant staff consists of approximately 20 Kenyan physicians and 20 expatriate medical missionary physicians.

Dr. Dick Bransford, a career missionary general surgeon, initiated pediatric neurosurgery (PNS) in Kijabe in 1997, when he began treating children with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The number of those children increased steadily, and in 2001, Dr. Bransford inserted 119 ventriculoperitoneal shunts and closed 61 myelomeningoceles (MMCs). In 2002, he sent an email to me with the subject “Neurosurgeon Needed,” requesting help in the management of such children. I began going to Kijabe for 2–3 weeks most Januaries thereafter to teach and operate. My wife, Susan Ferson, a pediatric nurse practitioner, and I moved to Kijabe on September 1, 2010, to teach and to perform PNS. We ended our work there in January 2015. In this manuscript, I offer my reflections on developing PNS in Kenya and in SSA in general.”

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One thought on “Reflections on developing pediatric neurosurgery in Sub-Saharan Africa

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