Banso Baptist Hospital – Cameroon
Cameroon is a central African nation, and home to one of the most innovative and sustained health ministries on the continent. Banso Baptist Hospital is a full-service institution providing surgical, obstetric, pediatric, and outpatient services. They also host a nursing school, a network of clinics, an HIV management program and a surgical residency.
Students find that Banso Baptist Hospital provide them an intense, hands-on medical care experience. Supervision is provided by four American physicians, in association with their Cameroonian colleagues. Surgical procedures, deliveries, and inpatient care responsibilities, coupled with the opportunity to sample the culture of this diverse nation, help to make Cameroon the medical educational highlight of many young physicians.
Location & Community
Located in the corner of Africa, Cameroon lies in the intersection of West Africa and Central Africa. The north of Cameroon is dry and contains vast savannas, while the south is home to dense tropical forests. Ecologically, Cameroon is culturally rich, with more than 200 ethnic groups. Banso Baptist Hospital, located near the city of Kumbo in northeastern Cameroon, is an ideal location from which to experience the culture of this remarkable nation.
International flights arrive in the city of Douala, located near the coast. Most flights come from Europe and arrive in the afternoon. A driver will meet guests at the airport and take them to the hospital guest house in Douala to spend the night.
Americans need to get a visitor’s visa in advance from the Cameroon Embassy in Washington, D.C. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the website for the Cameroon Embassy website at http://ambacam-usa.org.
Traveler’s Health & Safety
One should consult with their personal physician before traveling, and refer to the CDC Travel Website for the most up-to-date health information:
Most patients coming to Banso are traditional Africans, who make a living through farming. Most have very low income, and many have already sought assistance from a local healer before coming for medical care. A very large number of children are brought to Banso.
Most all patients speak English in this region of Cameroon. No translation is needed. Other regions of Cameroon are predominately French speaking.
Medical Care Services
Banso Baptist Hospital is a full-service hospital with a daily census of 250-300 patients. Outpatient services include the entire range of family medicine, including prenatal care and well-child care. 4,000 outpatients are seen monthly, during which the hospital hosts 80-100 deliveries. Banso Baptist Hospital is part of a health network that includes 23 health centers, a nursing school, and a village health worker training program. Banso Baptist Hospital is part of the Pan-African Surgical residency program.
HIV Care Services
Prevalence of HIV in Cameroon is among the highest in Africa. This emerging nation is also home to one of the most comprehensive and successful HIV interventions on the continent. Banso Baptist Hospital helps host an aggressive HIV program, headquartered in the city of Bamenda, lead by Dennis Palmer MD, and broadly supported by both Cameroonian and United States foundations. This intervention includes community-wide HIV/AIDS education, screening of pregnant women and prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), tuberculosis (TB) control, outpatient AntiRetroViral (ARV) therapy, orphan care, support groups for those HIV-infected, and palliative care.
International HIV Medicine students participate in the full range of HIV interventions. Activities include educational presentations in schools, churches, and other public forums; HIV treatment with laboratory support at approved centers; and management of TB and other opportunistic infections. Details about this HIV program are at http://www.cbchealthservices.org/html/HIVAIDS.html.
Public Health Initiatives
The Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB), in partnership with Banso Hospital, supervises primary health projects in about 45 villages. One of the few primary health programs in the entire nation, these particularly emphasize prevention, early detection and treatment of tuberculosis, HIV, and infant malnutrition, in addition to supporting basic health education, sanitation, vaccination, contraception, and supply of safe drinking water.
The majority of the personnel in these projects are trained in Banso, and receive ongoing mentorship in their roles. The CBCHB works in cooperation with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the American Public Health Association, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, among others, in perfecting and monitoring the results of their primary health care interventions. Medical students interested in working in this public health initiative must be in their fourth year.
Healthcare Profession Staff
Banso Baptist Hospital is staffed by two American physicians, an internist and a surgeon. The hospital is also served by 8-10 Cameroonian physicians, two of whom are ophthalmologists.
Students begin their experience with a two-day orientation into the culture of Cameroon and the functioning of the medical centers. Following this, students rotate for about a week at a time in the adult, surgical, pediatrics and obstetrics wards of Banso hospital. Students are primarily responsible for patient care, with immediate supervision available from an attending physician. Student responsibilities include night call. Banso Hospital prides itself in offering students an intense, clinically-oriented, hands-on training experience. Special emphasis on HIV care, pediatrics, obstetrics, and other fields is available.
Student Lodging & Meals
Students are provided lodging at the Douala guest house, the hospital dorm, a morning and evening meal, and all in-country transportation for a flat fee. Additional expenses may include the noon meals, the Internet cafe’s, phone calls, snacks and gifts.
The hospitals and guest houses have telephone service. An Internet cafe is available.
INMED invites all participants to consider raising extra funds to donate to support this facility. While such efforts are not required, they will provide opportunities INMED personnel to become involved in this important aspect of international healthcare.
Behavior & Dress
Conservative is the watch-word. Men to work should wear long parts, such at kakis but no jeans. Collared shirts are necessary, but not neck ties. Physicians normally wear white coats.
Women to work wear dresses below the knee. Pants are not worn to work. Shirts can be sleeveless, but should be loose fitting, with no waist line showing. Tank tops are not acceptable. Women can wear slacks in the dorm or to town, but dresses are generally more acceptable.
What To Pack
Travelers are advised to pack a carry on-bag that has their essentials, including a change of clothes, just in case luggage becomes lost. Also, it’s usually best to bring two suitcases, each half full, to provide space to pack souvenirs for the return trip. Snack foods and a stethoscope will be useful to bring along.