Dr. Albert Nyanga
Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon, Central Africa
STORIES FROM THE GROUND: CAMEROON
Let me introduce you to the remarkable Dr. Albert Nyanga of Cameroon. As a young boy Albert was enamored by people in uniform, particularly white uniforms. Growing up in the church, with weekly masses and his time as an altar server, Albert thought that one day he might become a priest, adorned in a prestigious uniform of ivory robes. This earnest childhood ambition continued up until the day Albert was outside playing with other kids and got a splinter of wood in his eye.
An immediate shock rushed through his body, followed by a continuous throbbing pain. Thankfully, Albert was treated by a doctor who was able to successfully remove the wood and eliminate the pain. In no time Albert was heading home, heartened and full of admiration for the doctor who cared for him. From that day forward Albert was set on becoming a doctor so that he too could heal and relieve people of their pain.
Today Albert is an internist and the Assistant Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon. As a referral hospital with some of the more advanced equipment and technologies in the country, Mbingo serves patients from throughout Cameroon as well as Nigeria, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, it isn’t necessarily an easy or quick journey for patients to make as the hospital is located in the rural northwest region of Cameroon, some 250 miles (405 kilometers) from the nation’s capital of Yaoundé.
To add to the difficulty of reaching the hospital, a crisis is underway in Cameroon, and on more than one occasion the road to Mbingo has been forcibly closed by rebel groups. Before the crisis, Mbingo served close to 500 patients a day. Now due to the road blockages and increasing instability, the hospital is treating approximately 150 patients a day, including gunshot victims, many of whom are civilians not directly involved in the conflict.
Tracing back to his youth, Albert witnessed a different clash, one that led him to a powerful conclusion that shapes his worldview today. Having seen the effects of a conflict between Muslims and Christians, Albert determined that no matter what name you call “God”, God is the same for all people. This profound concept of unity and equality not only demonstrates Albert’s resilience and fortitude, it also serves as an essential theme in the novel that he recently wrote: a fictional book about Africa that he calls an “action thriller”. As with his patients, Albert, in his determination and belief, was able to take a point of pain and transform it.
Despite this present violence in Cameroon, every morning Albert wakes up at 5 am and puts on his uniform. Often times he dashes off to the hospital without having breakfast, however, he does take time for a morning prayer. His day ahead is unpredictable so he asks God for grace, guidance, and understanding in all that he undertakes. Albert also asks for his patients to get well so that they may return home, and for encouragement when that is not the case.
Albert’s days at the hospital are comprised of daily rounds, patient discussions and diagnoses, procedures, one-on-one time with patients, and teaching. As the Assistant Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Mbingo, Albert leads discourses and teaches procedures to residents, a class of fewer than 15 doctors in training. An integral component of Mbingo’s residency program is international education. In addition to the lectures offered by local faculty, the hospital relies on missionary doctors from the United States and Canada for lectures. Now due to the violence and unrest very few doctors are traveling to Cameroon.
Though international faculty are unable to come to the hospital and teach, Health4TheWorld (H4TW) facilitates lectures for the residents. These lectures are held in a virtual classroom, led by world-class doctors who cover a number of topics including atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV, each of which are critical areas of study for doctors in Cameroon.
Undeterred by variable internet connections and busy schedules, a few Mbingo residents were able to speak to how the lecture series has impacted their work. Chief Resident, Dr. Richard Epande, has found the lectures to be a great resource to learn best practices and new trending information. Third year resident, Dr. Lubeka Nina expressed how, due to the palliative series of lectures, she has been able to make cancer patients more comfortable. Fellow resident, Dr. Eke Marie Cyrielle, shared that as a result of the lectures, she has been able to better counsel and educate her patients about their illnesses, and Dr. Ntumsi Ntontu was most impacted by the lecture on colorectal cancer, which taught Dr. Ntontu to be vigorous in screening the right side of the colon during endoscopy rotations.
And Albert has found the H4TW lecture series on palliative care to be of utmost importance due to its relevance to a spectrum of diseases. The lectures covered symptom identification and management in patients with cancer, as well as pain management, depression management, and end of life care. These shared treatment guidelines and recent diagnostic trends could not be more valuable as the current mortality rate of hepatocellular carcinoma patients who come to Mbingo is 100%, and overall, cancer is on the rise in Cameroon.
The international education support that H4TW provides allows residents and doctors to immediately improve patient care and implement more effective diagnostic strategies. In this way, little by little, patient by patient, healthcare in Cameroon is changing. Albert has been resolute in creating this change ever since he lost one of his first patients, a woman named Grace who had HIV. He is not alone in this effort. He is leading the way with Cameroon’s future doctors, who are brimming with dedication and compassion, and joined in this mission by H4TW.