While the sun rose over the Kenyan mountains signaling a new day for people in the rural town of Kijabe, it marked the last day of Dr. Louis Yu’s short-term volunteer trip with World Medical Mission at AIC Kijabe Hospital.
After he packed up his suitcase and tidied up his guesthouse for the next visitor, he made one last trip to the PICU before leaving to check on one of his youngest patients, a girl who had been in a serious car accident two weeks prior. She was left with broken bones and damaged lungs. Amidst the beeping of the machines and murmurs of hospital staff discussing other patients, Dr. Yu arrived at her bed to find her in good spirits and well on her road to recovery.
He walked out of the PICU experiencing a mix of joy and relief, prepared to head back home to the United States and rejoin his family medicine residency program at West Virginia University School of Medicine.
“It’s really been an honor to spend a month here,” he said. “This hospital is wonderful. The staff here have been so welcoming. This trip has really inspired me to keep working hard, and it’s taught me what I don’t know and what I need to continue to learn in my last year of residency. I really leave here refreshed spiritually, academically, and even physically.”
It was his first time serving overseas in a mission hospital, a unique opportunity to gain experience practicing medicine in a new environment. He served on the MICU, PICU, and OB/GYN teams and was also able to perform surgeries in the operating room, ranging from cesarean sections and a myomectomy to a laparoscopic gall bladder removal and exploratory laparotomy.
Sepsis, seizures, malnutrition, infertility, and colon cancer were some of the more common medical issues that Dr. Yu helped treat during his time in Kijabe. He saw firsthand how desperate the need was for medical care in these areas where patients oftentimes do not have access to the treatment they need.
“We see a lot of patients who present with chronic issues that go on for months, even years, and they don’t address them because of lack of access to the right treatment or lack of finances,” Dr. Yu said.
The spiritual needs are urgent as well. Many die without knowing Jesus Christ.
“You see a lot of physical hurt, but there’s a lot of spiritual hurt too,” Dr. Yu said. “When you go to patients’ beds, you pray with them. Or before you start a case, you pray with them. I just hope that by me being here helping to take care of patients, through my actions they will see Jesus.”
Dr. Yu’s path to get where he is today looks a lot different than most. After graduating medical school in 2011, he had a difficult time matching into a residency program, but still felt called to serve others in some capacity, so he spent time as a wildland firefighter and worked in disaster relief, eventually joining the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in 2016.
“In hindsight I think God used the time to really solidify and clarify why I wanted to become a doctor,” Dr. Yu said. “Was it for selfish motives? Was it for societal pressures?”
“God used the time to really solidify and clarify why I wanted to become a doctor.”
While trying to answer those difficult questions and figure out the next step to becoming a doctor, Dr. Yu’s mother passed away suddenly in 2017 while he was studying for the board exam.
“That was probably the worst time in my life,” he said. “But God really used that. He solidified my faith. He really allowed me to keep persevering, studying, taking the board exam, passing it, and get into residency.”
Now his days as a resident are filled with seeing patients in clinic, nursing home visits, didactics, and working on assignments for a course he is taking in medical acupuncture–all part of fulfilling the call God has put on his life to use the gifts he has to serve those in need.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re born or where you live, we all deserve a chance at some good medicine,” Dr. Yu said. “That’s why I do what I do. I believe in a big God. He chose the Cross, and I try to follow that example to lead with a servant’s heart. I can’t imagine not wanting to serve him every day and in every capacity that I can.”
After he finishes residency, Dr. Yu hopes to return to the medical mission field, something he feels all Christian doctors, nurses, and other health care workers should explore.
“I would highly encourage doctors to come on a short-term basis and serve in a mission hospital,” Dr. Yu said. “There is a great need to teach, so if you love teaching it’s a wonderful environment to teach the local residents and interns.
“You’ll also provide the local doctor that’s here a little bit of rest to get rejuvenated, because it can get pretty tiresome due to the high workload and patient load. I think it’s our duty as medical professionals to come.”
A medical ministry of Samaritan's Purse, World Medical Mission places volunteer medical personnel in short-term service in mission hospitals and clinics in the developing world, providing critically-needed resources as a witness of God's love. Your gift will help us fulfill this mission.