Reporter’s note: The horror that played out in a Nairobi mall has focused the world’s attention on Kenya. This week ABC 4 Utah is also focusing on Kenya, but for a very different reason. World of Difference, a non-profit foundation based in Utah, recently took an expedition to Kenya to build a school in a poor neighbor of Embakasi and work in Nairobi hospitals. The founders of World of Difference, Dr. Richard and Jodi Nielsen of Salem, have a track record of success in Kenya and were honored this year as “International Heroes” by the Utah Chapter of the American Red Cross. These reports are my first hand account of the work they do and the lives they change.
NAIROBI, Kenya (ABC 4 Utah) - What is it like for healthcare workers in a 3rd world country? That was the question on the minds of students from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.
For the first time… they were included in a humanitarian expedition to Kenya.
They are all 2nd year doctoral students in physical therapy. They were told they were there to learn. But once in the hospitals, they found their roles quickly reversed.
Their original assignment was to observe physical therapists working in Nairobi and Kenyatta hospitals.
But the quickly discovered the Kenyans expected more. On the very first day the students were thrust into the frontlines in outpatient clinics and critical care wards.
Jacie Saltzman describes applying compression stocking on patients to protect against blood clots in the legs. “We were able to work a lot with the patients themselves – get their history, their information and then work through the whole process of rehabilitation with them and do treatment with them,” Saltzman said.
And by the end of the first week, the students had also become teachers. Another student, Brian Thornock said, “The therapists were quite knowledgeable. I was very surprised with how much they did know, the techniques they knew, but as far as their evaluating abilities and critical thinking that was on a lower level which made me feel how lucky I am to be in the states to get a doctoral level education.”
Melanie Yakemovic said they taught as they worked. “I had to step … and remember what I’d learned in class and pass on that valuable information. For us is just another test, but for them it was life changing.
Clearly this is no substitute for the clinical training the students will get in Utah hospitals. Still, Professor Mark Walker said Kenya was both an eye opener and a confidence builder. “I know them well and to see them open up from what they were as a student and finally say, ‘This is why I’m doing this. This is why I want to be a physical therapist.”
For Professor Walker it was a gratifying experience. And he hopes Kenya will become an annual destination for students from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. “You just can’t get a better education than traveling and seeing the world. “
Dr. Walker say the university is also considering working with schools in Kenya to develop graduate level programs for physical therapists.