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Dispensary Heroes -- Resilience and Compassion from Kenya's Healthcare Frontline

To start off our field work in Kenya we took a trip to Gilgil, where we went to different health facilities and administered health facility surveys and key informant interviews to the healthcare workers. My experience in Gilgil further solidified my decision to pursue a career in healthcare. On our last day, I was assigned the task of capturing pictures of patients in efforts to advocate for a topical cream to treat cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL). The assigned nurse in the dispensary was the one administering injections to the patients with CL, with a majority of them being young children. The fear amongst them as they walked into the room to receive the injections for the diseases that they have been battling for months was profound and distressing. Initially, as I began taking photos, I was puzzled by the visible distress on the patients faces. However, it soon became apparent that their anxiety stemmed from the misconception that they were being positioned for yet another injection, rather than a mere photo. This misunderstanding speaks volumes about the trauma associated with CL, which may lead people to shy away from seeking vital care; therefore, decreasing health seeking behavior for the disease. 

The nurse measuring the dosage for treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis.

As I witnessed these medical procedures for the first time, I couldn't help but admire the fortitude required to carry them out. While I understand the importance of the injections, seeing the discomfort they caused to the patients was tough. Yet, the resilience displayed by the nurse in the dispensary was truly remarkable.

Dispensaries are a vital part of Kenya’s healthcare system, especially in rural areas. In these facilities, the nurses/clinical officers stand out as community heroes. Whether in Gilgil or Baringo county, they're well-known and respected by both adults and children. They're the backbone of the community, appreciated for their hard work and compassionate care towards everyone they serve. Their dedication is evident, and they play an important role in community healthcare, earning them the admiration and gratitude of those they assist.

The passion I witnessed during my health facility surveys for my research was truly inspiring. Most of the facilities I visited were at the dispensary level, with only a nurse or clinical officer in charge. Despite the absence of doctors and the limitations in resources, these healthcare workers tirelessly dedicated long hours to ensuring their patients received the care they

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis poster given to one of the facilities we interviewed.

deserved. Their commitment, particularly in the face of minimal government support, left an impression on me. It's remarkable how they rise every day, ready to tackle an array of conditions with such limited means.

Moreover, during my time in Baringo, we had the opportunity to organize a mobile clinic. Bringing together healthcare workers and community health volunteers, we embarked on a mission to provide essential tests, measurements, and medications to the community members in need. I eagerly took part in administering deworming medication to children, distributing snacks, and assisting with various stations as required. In those moments, I felt a profound sense of purpose and yearned to one day assume the role of a doctor at such stations, ensuring the well-being of every individual we encountered.

The drive these individuals possess to serve their community is undoubtedly a gift, one that I believe comes from a higher calling. It's a quality that shouldn't be underestimated or taken for granted. In a world where selflessness can sometimes be scarce, witnessing such

A portion of the turn out at the mobile clinic.

dedication reaffirmed my belief in the power of compassion and the importance of lending a helping hand to those in need.

I'm deeply inspired by their example, and I'm determined to follow in their footsteps. With dedication and perseverance, I aspire to one day provide the same vital care for my own community and communities around the world.

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