A visit to a coastal village on the Eastern Cape of South Africa sounds like a pleasant vacation. A team of Memphis health-care professionals, however, worked harder than ever on a recent trip to Dutywa, a village in the region on the verge of becoming a city.
Local New Direction Christian Church pastor Stacy Spencer and church member Charlsetta Gipson organized the trip to bring medical services to residents of Dutywa and the surrounding area, which lacks medical infrastructure.
Spencer and Gipson recruited family-care physician Twyla Twillie, dentist Steve Ballard, sickle-cell specialist Patricia Graves, and obstetrician Lanetta Anderson-Brooks, along with about 10 registered nurses. The group spent three days last month serving roughly 300 patients a day.
"It was an interesting community to spend time with," says Anderson-Brooks. "They don't have any doctors that practice in the community, so the primary goals of this mission are, long-term, to open a clinic, and short-term, to introduce the concept to the community and see how well it would be received."
The group chose Dutywa because of the village's importance as a regional education center. "Kids within a 100-mile radius will get their education there," Anderson-Brooks explains. "Most of the kids are living away from their parents in hostels."
Dutwya struggles with growing pains. "It's becoming a city, but there's no infrastructure," Anderson-Brooks says. "People have cell phones but no running water. People are suffering from basic health needs that can make or break a community, such as poor nutrition and bad water."
The group made advance accommodations to ensure access to medicine and basic equipment. "We had a scout team go out six months prior to the trip, and they determined the needs. They knew I would be doing pap smears, so they had a bed that could accommodate a pelvic examination and a light," says Anderson-Brooks.
While the Memphis group made referrals and hoped to positively impact Dutywa's public health in the short-term, they realize that one mission is only a beginning.
"One of the biggest barriers to making a long-term change is understanding the cultural differences and then starting to work within those confines," says Anderson-Brooks. "We have plans for 30-day, 90-day, and then a one-year follow-up. We want to set a new standard in the community."