Spotlights & Profiles

Student Spotlights

Madey aims to use lessons from the IU School of Medicine to improve care in Kenya

Nov. 21, 2013

Growing up in one of the poorest, most underdeveloped regions in the world, Abdullahi M. Madey, is not your typical Indiana medical student.

But the Kenyan native, who hails from a rural region dubbed a "frontier district" by the Kenyan government due to its proximity to the troubled nation of Somalia, recently spent five weeks in clinical rotations alongside Hoosier classmates at the IU School of Medicine, an opportunity provided by the school's partnership with AMPATH, also known as the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare.

Abdullahi M. Madey

Abdullahi M. Madey | Juan Guzman

“Medicine has always been an interest of mine, even right after finishing high school,” said Madey, who is also a tad older than many medical students. “The northeastern part of Kenya, where I am from, is largely marginalized in terms of healthcare, the economy and education. I've always wanted to return; to help and be of some assistance medically. My passion is to help others, and provide medical care especially to those in need.”

The calling to become a physician came during three years as a physician's assistant for the Kenyan government, said Madey, who previously hadn't yet taken the leap into pursuing a medical degree. The experience impressed upon him the large, mostly unmet need for greater medical services among the rural poor in his country.

Embarking upon his medical school journey has only deepened these convictions, added Madey, whose primary mentor in Kenya is Hillary Mabeya, who administers the Gynocare Fistula Center at the Moi Teaching and Learning Hospital. The center provides free access to fistula repair operations to women in need. Fistulas, a complication of childbirth impacting the ability to control bodily wastes, are common in many remote regions of the world, with many young women suffering rejection and ostracization due to the condition.

Among the many other challenges that Madey aims to fight against as a rural Kenyan doctor are language barriers, poor infrastructure and low education levels. He also hopes to cultivate stronger bonds with patients -- a phenomenon witnessed at the IU School of Medicine -- to overcome the divisions that exist in Kenya between the local population and medical community.

“There are so many great things I learned from this opportunity,” said Madey.“I really enjoyed seeing the patient-doctor relationship that is highly encouraged here. It is very different from back home -- and I want to be able to take this experience and translate it back into practice.”

Although his experiences at the IU School of Medicine will not soon be forgotten, Madey's greatest challenge during his time in the U.S. was being separated from his family, including three young daughters, to whom he was eager to return.

Yet his time in the states also provided some fun opportunities to absorb American culture, with one of the most memorable experiences being not a visit to a popular tourist attraction but to a buffet-style restaurant. The amount and variety of foods was "a bit shocking," he said, while also admitting he wasn’t really a big fan of the American hamburger.

"I've enjoyed this experience so much -- this opportunity  will help me to become a better doctor -- but I am very homesick, I must say," he said with chuckle.

Now returned to Kenya, Madey is eager to apply some of the lessons learned at the IU School of Medicine to the place where he says they matter most -- home.

Read more Student Spotlights stories »