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NuVasive Spine Foundation to Build out Broader, More Sustainable Program in Kenya

Posted in Giving Back | Jul 2016 | Comments (0)

Tags: medical pro bonospinegiving back

The NuVasive Spine Foundation recently completed its 20th mission trip to Kenya where it sponsors life-changing spine surgeries at Kenyatta National Hospital. The procedures are conducted by volunteer surgeons with donated implants and instruments, and the foundation also trains and instructs local surgeons in Eastern Africa.

The foundation has been sponsoring mission trips to Kenya since 2010, when it chose the nation as a pilot site for a spine surgery program to take to developing countries. This involved training local surgeons with the goal that these surgeons could eventually independently care for patients in their own local communities.

“Kenya was initially chosen for two main reasons,” says Pitchou Malaba, Foundation Ambassador. “The first was easy access for our volunteers. You can go to Europe and get a direct flight to Kenya,” he says. “Also from a security standpoint, in Africa, Kenya was relatively safe to get our best surgeons into.”

NSF 3_kids2_cropThe foundation entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the public hospital, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi, to create the training program and conduct regular, supported mission trips in Kenya every year. Trips are attended by about 12 people, comprising up to four spine surgeons and a support staff that includes nurses and physician’s assistants. Moving forward, the foundation and KNH seek to expand this partnership to include knowledge transfer, research and innovation. They also want to establish formal spine curriculum collaboration for local surgeons and registrars.

“We divided the missions into different categories, such as trips focused only on degenerative conditions, and then more complex conditions, where we look at the most aggressive diseases,” Malaba says. “Then we started connecting the best surgeons to the most impoverished people in Eastern Africa.”

Malaba reflects on some of the progress that the organization has made in Kenya.

“We have spent so much time teaching and training, and over time, we have created a culture of spine,” he says. “When we started in 2010, patients in East Africa were afraid of spine surgery, even though sometimes their only option to recover was spine surgery. When you’d propose surgery, they would not come back because surgeons there were not trained, and the outcomes were often poor. But over time, after we were there, the local surgeon would have at least 100 people in the clinic waiting, begging for spine surgery, once patients realized that there were trained surgeons on site to perform surgeries and train local surgeons. This has been a result of knowledge transfer and a more predictable way of training. We have trained local surgeons on multiple types of spine procedures, and we continue to do that.”
Kenya Mission_day2_3_crop
Over the last seven years, the group has also supported missions with products and support on the ground across many developing countries including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, Haiti, Nepal, Cambodia and the Philippines.

NuVasive Spine Foundation also administers patient assistance programs in the U.S. for individuals who cannot afford surgery.

“The foundation will donate instruments and implants to the hospital, free of charge,” Malaba says. “Also we will try to accommodate patients when there is no spine specialist surgeon in their region. If a patient needs a deformity surgeon, we may be able to bring that patient to San Diego to cover the procedure.”

Funds to support the group’s initiatives come from various fundraising events. NuVasive Inc., which is separate from the foundation, donates products to be used on the mission trips. In the last seven years, the organization has received more than $19 million in products and cash donations, Malaba says.

Next month, the group will travel to Chihuahua, Mexico to build a training program in that region, because as Malaba puts it, “It’s better to teach a person how to fish, than to give them fish.”

Hannah Corcoran is Associate Editor at ORTHOWORLD. Share with her how you give back; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it her your story.

Photos Courtesy of NuVasive Spine Foundation

NuVasive Spine Foundation

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