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AKISAN At 30:  Ideas For Future Collaborations – By Samuel E

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In 2015, the Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria in USA, Inc. (AKISAN), appointed Dr. Asuquo Inyang Chair of its Health Care Committee.

As it marks its 30th Anniversary,  AKISAN, which hold its 30th National Convention at the magnificent Marriot Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia, August 17th -20th, 2017, is focusing on the future and the possibility of providing diasporic assistance in healthcare to the homeland through its vast network of highly skilled and professional health manpower .

Dr. Inyang’s first assignment was to lead volunteer medical and surgical teams to perform medical mission in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria in areas with limited access to primary care and surgical services.  

According to the York, Pennsylvania-based cardio-thoracic medical professional, who led volunteer medical and surgical teams to perform medical mission in three senatorial zones in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, “we organized a state-wide mission covering all the Senatorial districts, all occurring simultaneously, which was a first. 

“There had been some other regional missions like those conducted by Nto Annang Foundation every summer which I supported as a proud in-law (my sister is married in Annang), but Akwa Ibom had never seen a medical mission on the scale conducted by AKISAN, “ he explained. 

Previously, AKISAN’s role in the provision of medical services was limited to the supply of medical equipment and supplies to designated health clinics and facilities. While the medical mission model, introduced in 2015 or thereabout, was aimed at addressing access to health care in underserved communities, its major constraints were inadequate resources and sustainability on an annual basis. 

Aware of these constraints, Dr. shared his views in a private conversation on the challenges of AKISAN sponsored medical missions and the issues the association, which is seeking new areas of collaboration, should address as it enters its next decade. 

“Medical missions should not be the “be all and end all”, but rather it should be only a stop gap measure specifically directed to some certain demographic that require the treatment but cannot afford to pay for it, or the service is not readily available,“ Dr. Inyang pointed out.

“In our situation where poverty is so pervasive, it becomes an open invitation to the whole community sometimes having people from long distant places as far as Port Harcourt, Owerri and Aba lining up for treatment before the people of Uruk Uso could even wake up in the morning.” 

In his interview, Dr. Inyang recalled a sympathy provoking encounter that might have caused him and his colleague to miss their connecting flight. 

“In Ikot Ekwere, Ubium, Nsit-Ubium Local Government Area, we were working till late at night every day, just to clear our scheduled patients. The earliest we returned to our hotel in Eket was midnight. We had a young man with a giant hernia who traveled all the way from Calabar to the mission site. He had missed an opportunity for surgery in Calabar, this time he refused to leave the health center and slept at the center from Wednesday. He was the last on the schedule for Friday. When we eventually got to him at about 1.00 am Saturday morning, I was both physically and mentally exhausted. I was not in the mood or frame of mind to continue the surgery. But, on hearing the young man’s heart wrenching story, my colleague, Dr. Graham Laurence, took him to the OR to perform the required surgical procedure. At that point, I had no other option but to join him. Dr. Laurence is not a Nigerian, and has no link with Ubium; he was just another volunteer from the USA on the trip. I am a Nigerian, an Akwa Ibomite, and a proud in-law in Ubium. I had to summon up the energy, by the grace of God, to join Dr. Laurence to operate on the patient. We made it back to our hotel at about 5.00 am on Saturday, and left immediately for the local Airport for Dr. Laurence to catch his flight to Lagos, and return to the USA.” 

Dr. Inyang also discussed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) proposal for surgery to become an integral part of primary healthcare delivery service, an initiative that AKISAN may revisit as part of its medical mission program. 

“It is pertinent to know that the WHO has declared that surgery should be regarded as part of primary health care; therefore, the primary care providers in Nigeria should acquire the skills for the common surgical conditions encountered at home, to alleviate the suffering of indigent patients who die from complications of simple treatable surgical conditions. This should be part of the curriculum for the newly minted doctors or primary care providers.” 

During the interview with Dr. Inyang, he referenced an article he contributed to his high school alumni brochure. In the article, “From Gracias Lempira to Ikot Ekwere, Ubium: The gift of Grit and Compassion,” Dr. Inyang avers that “the poor from Gracias Lempira in Honduras to Ikot Ekwere in Ubium all have the same problem as other poor people in under-developed parts of the world.

“My experience is that they are all mired in an unending cycle of poverty, ignorance and disease, and they die from complications of otherwise treatable ailments.” 

Pointing out that, “this should not be the case, it should not remain our lot in the third world, and that there is a way out,” Dr. Inyang calls for “visionary leadership”, one that will bring with it the knowledge and skills to address and resolve the problem of access to primary care in underserved communities.

AKISAN, no doubt, owes the success of its medical mission trips to the devotion and professional guidance of all its professionals, notably Dr. Inyang, who, based on his several medical mission trips to Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, is in a pre-eminent position to offer necessary advice on the integration and coordination of health services between AKISAN and government.   

 Dr. Inyang also shared his views on his experience with the authorities in Akwa Ibom State.

“I am an admirer of the current commissioner for Health Dr. Dominic Ukpong, whom I worked with at an Exxon Mobil sponsored event. 

“I believe he has the required experience and capacity to make tangible changes in the health care delivery at home. If the signals I am receiving are true, then we should see some changes in the Health care delivery at home in the not too distant future. 

“He (assured) me that he will fix the Ikono Hospital, preparatory to a medical mission trip to my own local government. I want to hold him up to that. 

“Our current Governor is also making positive moves in the direction of the health care system; he has a good partner in Dr. Ukpong to make the required changes, and the people will always remember the mark they have made, because health care affairs affect everybody, the young, the old, the poor, the rich, man or woman.

“So, let’s get to work.”

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