The Section of Surgical Sciences

Vanderbilt International Surgery Program

(VIS) 4th Year Elective Rotation

Erik Hansen, M.D., performs surgery with doctors at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya.

Erik Hansen, M.D.

Vanderbilt’s International Surgery program was launched in July 2011 under the supervision of pediatrican and general surgeon Erik Hansen, M.D., who also serves as associate program director.

AIC Kijabe Hospital, located in Kijabe, Kenya, one hour outside Nairobi, was opened in 1915 as a small, local hospital. Today, as an Africa Inland Mission (AIM) hospital, it serves as a training hospital, meeting the medical needs of the entire region. Yet even with international assistance, the hospital relies most often on donated medical equipment and supplies.

Patient Care at AIC Kijabe Hospital, Kijabe, Kenya

While most are found in the cities and large towns of the country, 30 percent of all health care in Kenya is provided by mission hospitals, such as Kijabe, as well as other non-governmental health care institutions, many of which are found in rural settings.

Because of the limited access to health care in the region, patients often present at much later stages in their illnesses. With a population of 40 million, the people of Kenya struggle to find quality and affordable surgical care among the 300 surgeons in the country.

 “We see complications, infections and end-stage presentations here that we almost never see in the United States because so many East Africans simply can’t get to a doctor sooner,” said Hansen.

Plastic surgeon mentoring residents globally

Peter Nthumba, M.D., a plastic surgeon, honorary secretary of the Surgical Society of Kenya and Vanderbilt adjunct professor in Plastic Surgery, is mentoring Vanderbilt residents on rotation at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. Each day, he sees patients who suffer from a host of life-threatening maladies requiring surgery, including massive tumors.

“As you can imagine, when we remove these tumors, it truly changes their lives,” said Nthumba. “But it’s distressing to know that so many of these tumors could be removed years earlier, as they are in the U.S., if access to surgical care were improved,” he said.

Nthumba specializes in plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery. He trained in Kenya, India and Spain before returning to Kijabe Hospital to address this critical shortage of surgeons.

 “With our current numbers and programs, we just can’t treat all the patients,” Nthumba said. “We must teach others how, as well.”


Vanderbilt was the first General Surgery Residency program to gain approval for international rotations that count for both time and patient cases, as performed under the new guidelines from the Surgery Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Resident Perspective

What really struck me is that despite the obvious differences in resources, patients and families are no different in Kenya. On their faces, you see the same concern, compassion and gratitude as you would anywhere. This experience has made me a better doctor,” 

- Julia Shelton, MD
General Surgery, Chief Resident


Rotations at Kijabe Hospital

·       General Surgery 

·       Pediatric

·       Plastic

·       Urologic Surgery



Links to stories & video


This page was last updated December 26, 2012 and is maintained by