Meet Dr. George Bwelle…

Nearly every Friday for the past ten years, Dr. George Bwelle, a visceral surgeon at the Central Hospital in Yaoundé, has packed a rented van with surgical equipment, life-saving pharmaceuticals and a high powered generator, and driven out into the remote regions of his country, to spend his free time providing medical services at no charge to needy communities.  In return, he only asks that the community provide a place for his team of volunteers to sleep and a location to perform surgery and give consultations.  Most patients in these areas have never seen a doctor.

On a typical weekend, the team arrives after three to eight hours of traveling down dirt roads through the jungle and are greeted by hundreds of villagers – our patients who have already been waiting for us all day.  Throughout the weekend, many more patients will arrive by foot from villages as far as 30 km away.  We establish a space to set up a pharmacy, and a place to do consultations, usually at the house of the chief (or host), or at the local school.  Over the next 24 hours, two to three doctors, assisted by medical students and volunteers, will consult over four hundred patients and identify surgical cases.

On each weekend campaign, Dr. Bwelle and assisting doctors perform anywhere from 20-30 surgeries over the course of 24 hours.  Surgeries range from hernias involving two feet of intestine to grapefruit sized lipomas.  The doctors can use nothing but local anesthesia, as lack of equipment and reliable electricity prevents the use of general anesthesia.   All patients are given high doses of antibiotics post surgery and ibuprofen for the pain.  A difficult problem in providing this type of medical relief is the lack of follow-up care. 

The doctors who volunteer their time must return to work on Monday so cannot remain in the village.  Some villages have local nurses, but they refuse to work without getting paid.  Dr. Bwelle always leaves an emergency phone number and provides as many instructions as possible to patients.  He hopes that in the future, he can pay his own nurse to stay in the villages for a few days after the team leaves in order to monitor the patient’s recovery.

In addition to individual consultations and treatment, part of every medical campaign involves a public health component.  In most rural regions of Cameroon, intestinal parasites are a large concern in both child and adult populations.  They can lead to anemia, poor nutrient absorption and stomach upset.  Health workers, with the help of local translators, explain the origin of the worms and distribute anti-helminthics to all who consent to treatment.

Dr. Bwelle believes that it is his duty as a doctor to provide these services.  He relies on donated medical supplies to supplement personal funds he provides to pay for surgical equipment, transportation and life-saving drugs.  He relies strongly on his varied team of volunteers, consisting of medical students, occasionally other doctors, and a core team of personally trained locals with no more than a primary school education.

The Bush Medicine Partnership continues to collect medical supplies and raise funds to support this important mission.

Meet our 2011 team from Drexel University College of Medicine!!