Hey Everyone!

I tried to not let another week go by without posting, but each week we do so much that by the time I can sit down to write, here we are! Here’s the latest:

Our classes at GLUK have continued, and this week we have discussed our project design in terms of clinical research with greater detail. Our two new faculty are Dr. Anita McGahan (MBA & PhD Harvard University) and Dr. Chris Kabrhel (MD, Harvard Medical School). Anita has been discussing the importance of financial models and their integration with local business structures and customs.  The idea behind this is to understand a problem at a cultural and community level in order to craft a financial model that can run efficiently with the human resources present in the area. Chris has been guiding us through a thorough look at clinical research and its practical application to our current projects. His lectures have been enormously helpful in helping Jordi and I design a study around our chosen healthcare problem and subsequent innovation. But I realize I haven’t mentioned what our innovation is!

Our classroom at GLUK

In our work with the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society (NRHS) we have (after much difficulty and several setbacks) come up with a viable solution to an identified problem. Over the course of several interviews, Jordi and I have discovered that opposition to Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC – read the previous post to see its benefits) has arisen due to socioeconomic factors. Basically, many men here live day to day in providing for their families. If they don’t work that day, they don’t eat. And neither do their families. This is a problem as VMMC often comes with an associated recovery time after the procedure. Usually the time ranges from 2-7 days before an individual can return to regular daily activity. As a result, clients who are in support of VMMC ask what NRHS is going to do to support their family in the time that they must recover.  This is a problem as this represents some majority of the 51% of Kenyans living in the Nyanza province where we are working. The more people who we can bring in for circumcision procedures, the better the chances Kenyans have of living healthy, HIV-free lives.

Our field leader Benard Otieno corralling kids into the back of a pickup truck for delivery to the circumcision clinic

And so, the innovation comes in the form of a device that will help reduce recovery time. Jordi and I came up with the idea after seeing an organization by the name K-MET (another NGO our program is working with) sustainably produce female sanitary napkins for menstruating girls in schools. The napkins are washable, sanitary, and extremely cheap to produce. After seeing this, Jordi and I began wondering if that same kind of material could be used to make a post-operation surgical wound dressing for men exiting the VMMC clinic. Currently, bandages are applied to the wound, but those must be taken off after 3 days. In the following days (3-14 or so), the penis may become infected due to excess swelling, friction of the frenulum (underside of the penis) against the inside of the pants, and the sutures may catch on the fabric of the pant lining (a VERY painful experience we are told). The device would consist of an absorbent material and an elastic waistband, to be worn under the underwear, that would support support and protect the sensitive area. The beauty of the whole device is that it would be sustainable, because it is produced locally, and cheap, not having to heavily modify current manufacturing practices. Doctors and other healthcare workers have told us that they are surprised no one has thought of this before.

Me with the kids of Mbali primary school before a sexual education talk given by NRHS

Currently, Jordi and I have met with the heads of both NRHS and K-MET, and have begun the process of designing a prototype device. If such a device can be made, then efforts to analyze cost-effectiveness, patient opinion, and end-goal effectiveness will ensue. Needless to say we are extremely excited by the potential and buzz our conceptual device has generated thus far. More on this to come as time goes on!

One of the program coordinators, Genna Purcell, reading the goodbye card we wrote to her

On the fun side of things, the group will be going on two excursions in the near future: A safari to Lake Nakuru, a vast wildlife park with nearly every imaginable African animal (except elephants, sadly), and a visit to Barak Obama’s grandmother! Apparently she lives just outside of Kisumu, and has been named “Mama Obama” by the locals. Hopefully I’ll come out of these trips with great stories and even better pictures. Also, last weekend we visited a rooftop bar called The Duke of Breeze. It has a great atmosphere, comfy seats along a stuccoed roof, and (perhaps most importantly…) good and cheap drinks.

Me unintentionally doing a prom picture with this hollow tree…

Breaking down on a Kenyan road on the way home from Kakamega rainforest

Looking across a field at one of the many slums in Kisumu

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading. I miss you all and hope that you keep leaving comments and sending me emails. I love getting news about your life from home!

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