Dr Benjamin Wachira shares his story of life as an Emergency Medicine Physician in Kenya

Benjamin is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Aga Khan University, Nairobi and the current president of the African Federation for Emergency Medicine, an international association aimed at supporting emergency care development across Africa.

He is also the Founding Director of the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, an organization dedicated to ensuring timely, accessible and quality lifesaving emergency care in Kenya. As the IFEM Regional Board Representative for Africa, and currently the only qualified Kenyan emergency medicine physician, Benjamin is playing an instrumental role in developing emergency medicine in Kenya, throughout Africa and across the world.

What are the main emergency medicine challenges you face in Kenya?
The main challenge is the lack of established emergency medical systems in the country. The Medical Board only recognised emergency medicine as a specialty in 2017 and we’re currently working towards commencing our first residency program in 2021. There is a continual challenge of educating the government and policy makers about emergency medicine, how it fits in with other medicine and the critical role it plays.

What has been your greatest emergency medicine achievement?
One of the greatest achievements has been establishing the Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation, as well as bringing emergency medicine to the forefront of healthcare decision makers – influencing policy makers and Ministers to start incorporating it into healthcare discussions and legislation. In just 7 years since I arrived back when emergency medicine was never talked about, it is now discussed and on the agenda.

What are you hoping to achieve over the next few years?
One of my main goals for the next few years is to commence our first residency program in 2021, and  further development of emergency care in the country to include more trained staff, improved protocols and systems, robust legislation, a well-structured EM response, and ensuring everyone can access emergency medical care in a timely manner. My ultimate goal is for everyone to be able to access high quality emergency medical care when they require it.

Why did you become an emergency medicine physician?
It was really by chance. At the time emergency medicine was not in my country so I hadn’t been exposed to it. Throughout my training I found many areas of medicine boring and repetitive, but what really got me excited was when I needed to provide immediate acute care to a patient and watching them stabilise…this was awesome!! When graduating I knew I wanted to follow the path of specializing in emergency medicine.

What is the best thing about being an emergency medicine physician?
That you get to work with everyone and everything  – when a patient turns up at the front door you’re it, within moments you’re trouble shooting and utilizing a broad range of skills before handing them over to the ward in much better shape than they came in. I love that there are so many possibilities, anything could come through your ED – vehicle accident, sick child etc – so your knowledge and skills have to be so much broader compared to other specialties. Every day is a new story. Plus, it’s even more exciting working in Kenya and being able to build and develop a system in the country – the possibilities and opportunities this presents is what really excites me. Being in the EM space and trying to influence how things develop and improve.

What is the best way IFEM can assist the advancement of global emergency medicine
IFEM is in a fantastic position to connect countries at similar levels. Many emergency medicine organizations throughout the world have a very top down approach to sharing ideas and offering assistance. But what is more useful is sharing ideas, lessons learnt, knowledge and resources from countries in similar resource settings and with similar needs. Providing advice that is relevant to that country based on their stage of emergency medicine development. Facilitating events, forums, resources and other learning environments for countries with similar needs is critical in advancing emergency medicine across the world.