The primary medical experience in Nigeria currently consists of a two-week mission for one resident to work with a team of Vanderbilt ENT surgeons along with St. Thomas Hospital medical staff, lead by Vanderbilt’s Dr. James Netterville. On their annual trips, the group performs a variety of adult and pediatric ENT surgical procedures, averaging 8-10 major operations a day. They operate at the 110-bed Nigeria Christian Hospital in Ikot Ekpene, which is in southern Nigeria. The need for even routine medical care is overwhelming in Nigeria, where an estimated 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
During past trips to Nigeria, it has not been unusual for the medial team to learn patients had travelled more than 12 hours in hopes of seeing a doctor. Malnourishment, lack of adequate shelter, and little to no access to education and routine medical care is the norm for many Nigerians, especially in more rural parts of the country. Malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are major medical challenges, and the average life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years.