Physician Provider Stories

Humanitarian trip to Kenya: Weatherby doctors making a difference

Weatherby doctors on humanitarian trip to Kenya

Locum tenens providers step in wherever they’re needed to ensure patients have access to the healthcare they need—everywhere from remote rural locations and struggling inner cities to luxurious destinations that get overwhelmed during ski or surf season.

This summer, four locum tenens physicians represented Weatherby Healthcare at Baraka Hospital in Kenya, providing patient care and educating local physicians. The humanitarian trip was funded by a grant from the Making a Difference Foundation. Meanwhile, Weatherby Healthcare, a CHG Company, sent several non-medical representatives as well to help in other capacities.

2018 Difference Makers

Each of the four 2018 Difference Maker physicians have demonstrated a passionate commitment to helping others. Dr. Olabisi Jagun, Dr. Jane Park, and Dr. Chastity Edwards, joined mission leader Dr. Roger Altoff, who had already been on several medical missions to Africa.

“Making the connection between Weatherby, CHG, and Baraka Hospital was a serendipitous connection that happened during a phone conversation with my Weatherby consultant, Mike Markowitz,” recalls Dr. Altoff. “I live on the West Coast and Mike lives on the East Coast, so I’ve never met him, even though we’ve worked together for four years. We have an excellent relationship. Mike’s always responsive and able to dovetail me into the situations I want.”

Weatherby doctors on humanitarian trip performing surgery in Kenya

In 2017, Dr. Altoff asked Mike not to schedule him for any summer work because he would be going to Africa on a humanitarian trip to help with the new surgical wing at Baraka Hospital. Mike immediately recognized the name of the facility, since the Making a Difference Foundation and Weatherby were already talking about sending a team of physicians there the following summer. Ultimately, Dr. Altoff was asked to lead the team of doctors on the Difference Makers mission, and he readily agreed.

“I’ve been a general surgeon for more than 45 years, and I’ve done vascular surgery most of my career. About four years ago I left my full-time position in the Midwest to move near my son on the West Coast. But I didn’t want to quit practicing medicine, so I began taking locum tenens opportunities approximately 10 days a month,” says Dr. Altoff.

“Giving back has always been important to me, and I’ve done other mission work in Haiti and in Rwanda after the genocide. Now, by accident, I find myself working for an organization that shares my philanthropic ideals. It’s been an inspiration.”

Building relationships with local physicians

In Kenya, Dr. Altoff is known affectionately as Dr. A. “I’ve been to Baraka Hospital five times in the last 12 months. The first patients I operated on were the result of non-typical Western medicine by self-proclaimed ‘witch doctors,’” recalls Dr. A. “Whether a patient had a cold, an ear ache, or a sore foot, these ‘witch doctors’ would treat them by making five to eight small incisions in their skin wherever they thought was most appropriate and stuffing grass and herbs into the incisions. None of it was sterile, and often resulted in abscesses.”

But since 2010, Baraka Hospital has been encouraging patients to come to the hospital for care, and especially to give birth. “I’m the only trained surgeon who has been here since the surgical wing opened a year ago,” says Dr. A. “Now the care we’re doing here is on par with what you’d see in Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia.

“Having people come here and teach the local docs is the best way to support the healthcare system. It is gratifying to come over and do some surgery, but sustaining an ongoing program like this is how we can make a real impact,” says Dr. A.

Experiencing the difference first-hand

Weatherby humanitarian trip to Kenya

The Weatherby team wholeheartedly agrees. “I know the local doctors and the volunteer doctors the Making a Difference Foundation sends make a huge difference, but experiencing that first hand was powerful,” says Bill Heller, president of Weatherby Healthcare. Heller and several other non-clinical Weatherby staff accompanied the locum tenens physicians on the humanitarian trip to offer their support.

“We got to see the physicians in action. Their skill level and bedside manner is phenomenal. Meanwhile, they’re learning from their colleagues at Baraka Hospital and also sharing their knowledge. I feel fortunate to work with these physicians who donate their time and fly halfway across the world to give back in a way that will continue to make a difference in this community and in countless lives.”

If you’re interested in making a difference through locum tenens, take the first step by connecting with a Weatherby consultant. Give us a call at 954.343.3050.

About the author

Lisa Daggett

Lisa Daggett is well-versed on the topic of locum tenens staffing and was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler, and Travel Nurse magazines. She served as associate editor of RN Magazine and as an editorial assistant for Business & Health.

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