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Dr. A. Leland Albright Lends Critical Neurosurgery Skills to Hospital in Kenya

The e-mail stated simply "Neurosurgeons needed."

A. Leland Albright, MD, a neurosurgeon and faculty member of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, answered the plea from Africa 10 years ago. He has returned each January for the past eight years, working at the Kijabe Medical Center, a 200-bed mission hospital located about an hour and a half northwest of Nairobi, Kenya. The medical center serves a large rural area populated by members of many different tribal groups.

Kenya is a nation of 38 million people but there are only about 10 neurosurgeons - all in Nairobi.

"They save up the hard ones (cases) and I do them non-stop," says Albright, who performs 4-5 surgeries per day, every day, for three weeks.

"I come home just exhausted."

In Kenyan tribal culture it is believed that children with severe health issues have no value - that they will never be productive members of society. But the Christian hospital believes these children do have value.
 
"It's probably the highlight of my year," Albright says. "It's an opportunity to express God's love for these people."

Some years, Albright brings a resident with him to Kenya. "The resident gets more experience in three weeks than in six months at home," he says.

He tells the story of a young boy with a large tumor deep in his brain. The boy's outlook was not optimistic. Using equipment that was common in the United States 40 years ago, Albright says he was able to completely remove the tumor, which turned out to be benign. The boy has completely recovered.

Albright says a physician needs three things when working in Kenya - low expectations, flexibility, and a sense of humor. "I have none, so it's a real stretch."

Nevertheless, "It's a privilege to be able to do it," he says.

Albright also brings a lot of equipment with him to Kenya each year, much of it donated by medical companies. It stays in Kenya.

Albright is an expert in the treatment of children's neurological disorders. He sees children with everything from cerebral palsy to brain tumors. Learn more about Pediatric Neurosurgery at UW Health