Alright. I guess I should explain exactly what I am doing here. The University of Indiana Medical School partnered with a Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya to enhance learning on both ends. After the AIDS epidemic hit too close to home with the hospital in Kenya unable to treat one of its own medical students, Dr. Joe Mamlin (my neighbor and Noble Peace Prize nominee) decided that he was going to treat patients with antiretroviral drugs when everyone else in the US said it was not worth the cost. At the time, the drugs costs around $2,500/mo and once a patient starts he or she must remain on the drugs for life…you can see why some people thought it was too expensive to treat 30M+ in sub-Saharan Africa currently living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Mamlin and his associates called this form of treatment and prevention program AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access To Healthcare). Combined with Pres. Bush’s PEPFAR announcement of $10B in aid targeted at HIV/AIDS largely in Africa, lead to AMPATH’s rapid growth. They have treated 60,000+ HIV/AIDS patients through a network of 20+ clinics in western Kenya. Given the Lazarus like effect of the treatment, people travel from all around Kenya and surrounding nations to receive treatment. But remember, these patients need to stay on a strict drug regimen and therefore close to the clinic or hospital. To support their family they need a job and want to stay busy. That’s where my role comes. AMPATH has a division called Family Preservation Initiative (FPI). FPI’s main goal is to provide employment opportunity to those who are seeking work while in the critical phase of HIV/AIDS treatment. FPI has several businesses, Cool Stream Restaurant, Passion Fruit Seedling Company, Imani Workshops, Wataluma Repair and Maintenance. Through these and a variety of other community wide projects, AMPATH aims to make sustainable change in Eldoret and surrounding areas. While I am here, I will be working closely with FPI but also having the opportunity to go to the hospital on rounds with some of the MDs, visiting the orphanage and travel to clinics with Dr. Mamlin as he treats patients in the most remote regions of Kenya.
These businesses are great, but are supported through AMPATH’s grant and private donation money. I have been asked to help implement a strategy that will steer Imani and Wataluma toward profitability. The goal is to have these companies self-sustaining and eventually turn a profit that can be used for at large expenses for the hospital and grow enough to employ any patient seeking a job. It is an incredible challenge and is certainly teaching me a lesson in patience. I look forward to the challenges, opportunities and experiences ahead.
I promise the next update will include some humor. Wednesday is Independence Day here in Kenya and this weekend I’m heading to an island camp surrounded by crocodiles, hippos and other African wildlife, what could go wrong there?