Nigeria is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and is about twice the size of California. The population density is extremely high, with over 140 million people, or a quarter of the entire population of the African continent. Ethnic violence over the oil producing Niger Delta region, religious conflicts and inadequate infrastructure are current issues in the country.
Our primary mission is the surgical treatment of patients with tumors, congenital deformities, and rare diseases of the head and neck. In 1998, Dr. Farrar, the founder of Nigerian Christian Hospital, contacted Dr. James Netterville, a professor of Head and Neck Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, requesting help to organize a medical mission to treat this population of patients, who were severely under-served with adequate medical care. With a scant team totaling six (two surgeons, two anesthesiologists and two nurses) naively departing on our first trip in February 2000 with no surgical supplies, we entered into an operating theatre with no suction system, no electrical cautery, and limited light by which to perform the 75 major surgical procedures completed over 8 days on this first mission trip. There was little thought of this becoming more than an isolated trip, but the need was indeed great and the work is never finished.
Initially, teams were led by Dr. James L. Netterville and his brother, Dr. J. David Netterville, President of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, PC, and were comprised of physicians, nurses, anesthetists, OR technicians, medical students, and other concerned individuals based predominantly in Nashville, Tennessee and mostly associated with either Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) or St. Thomas Health Services (STHS). However, our team members have come from all over the United States and abroad, including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Michigan, Mississippi, and even Pakistan.
Our goals extend far beyond the primary mission of patient care to include continuing education of the Nigerian medical and nursing teams, upgrading the state of the entire hospital with emphasis on the operating theatre, raising support to provide financial assistance for indigent patients and educational scholarships for the local full-time medical staff. Knowing that education is the primary path to improving the lives of these rural Nigerian people, we are also committed to raising support for the hospital-based primary and secondary school, Nigerian Christian School.
Over the years we have upgraded the operating theatre and the entire hospital with updated American grade electrical circuits to provide stable current for the influx of thousands of pounds of modern medical equipment and supplies that we are able to bring each year.