Young African Family Physicians: providing care and leadership.

A general interest item from members of AfriWON - WONCA Africa region's movement for young doctors.

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From its roots in general practice, family practice in Africa is gaining recognition as a philosophy of care provided by specially trained health personnel: the family physician. Little wonder Dr Sodipo Jimi (a member of AfriWon practising at the Mirabel Centre of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria) gained recognition as one who was able to provide patient-centered care in a setting which would have otherwise been the exclusive preserve of the Gynaecologist. In 2013, a sexual assault centre (i.e. Mirabel Centre) was opened at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital to clients who were victims of sexual assault. Contrary to the earlier expectations, clients who presented included both sexes and all age groups (from infants to the elderly), they all needed wholistic care (gynaecological, mental, spiritual, medical etc) and they also needed continuing and coordinated care. From observing the approach to patient care provided by Dr Sodipo Jimi, it was clear to the Centre manager that more family physicians were needed at this centre.

Photo: Mirabel Centre, Lagos Nigeria.

From Institutional care, Dr Joy Mugambi (another AfriWon renaissance member completing her training at the Kangundo sub-County hospital affiliated to Moi Unversity, Eldoret, Kenya) exemplifies how a Family Physician can provide the link between individualised care and community based care. Though she enjoys providing comprehensive care at the Kangundo sub-county Hospital, the most exciting part of her journey into family medicine has been Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC).

Dr Mugambi is one restless soul who hates being confined to buildings. At the slightest opportunity, she is off for her home visits, making community diagnosis, offering health promotion and prevention tips to the community she has adopted. The joy in the community is palpable as the community dwellers cannot believe that daktari (as she is fondly called) would visit their humble dwellings. That is not all, daktari goes home with a fruit basket, milk and chicken.

Photo: Dr Joy Mugambi at a Community meeting.

In April 2015 and still at the Kangundo sub-County of Kenya, Dr Maxwell Lodenyo (an AfriWon renaissance member, Family Physician and a Senior Assistant Director of Medical Services, Ministry of health, Kenya) received the 2015 award for doctor of the year. This is the third time since 2013. The significance of this cannot be missed especially when there is a pool of other Specialists to choose from.

While family medicine has been advocated as the one discipline that should be at the centre of care provision, it takes people who are passionate about its philosophy of care to show this. Young family physicians in Africa are proving their role in providing comprehensive care even in specialised care settings. They are showing that it is possible to provide the vital link between hospital and community based primary care. Provision of community oriented primary health care is a sure way of providing quality universal health care. At an early stage of their career, young African family physicians are standing out as leaders even in a multi-disciplinary setting.

By Drs Kenneth Yakubu, Sodipo Jimi and Joy Mugambi ( AfriWon Renaissance)