It's been months since Kyle Lum '15 visited his last surgery room in Harar, Ethiopia. In that time, dozens—if not hundreds—of Ethiopian poor will have had to forgo cataract surgery simply because of materials shortages and a lack of healthcare resources. They are being condemned to a life of darkness.
Along with Kyle Lum, Jake Puzycki '14 traveled to Ethiopia to study the intersection of healthcare and poverty. Their trip was sponsored by a Lehigh Grant for Experiential Learning in Health.
Both students left frustrated that more isn't being done—but hopeful that, with more attention, the medical needs of the most vulnerable might still be addressed.
They know it may take years for that to happen—and that's too long for some of the country's most vulnerable patients. Lum and Puzycki speak of a clinic visit they witnessed by a two-year old girl near Harar. She had what resembled a menacing brown tumor on her eyeball. Doctors explained that a vitamin deficiency was the likely culprit, though it was also possible the girl had developed a cancerous tumor.
As is the case in most other impoverished areas across Ethiopia, the clinic didn't have the equipment to do a biopsy—and did not have the money to send a sample to Addis Abba for additional testing.
In wide-ranging discussions with four practicing surgeons, Puzycki and Lum learned that many doctors worked several jobs, left the country, or entered private practice in order to make ends meet.