The most rewarding 30 days as a Medical Volunteer in a Malawi hospital

When Boston West’s Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Mr Harish Kurup, decided to take a six-month career break, he had no idea that he would find one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

Mr Kurup started his break with a two-month road trip in India. During this time, he arranged a last-minute unfunded orthopaedic surgeon position at Mzuzu Central Hospital in Malawi. Mr Kurup had in the back of his mind that this was the perfect opportunity to do some charity work and this post through World Orthopaedic Concern UK fitted his schedule and profile.

World Orthopaedic Concern UK is a charitable organisation dedicated to improving the standard of orthopaedic, trauma and reconstructive surgery in developing countries.

This 30-day medical licencing post was expensive and flights were also costly and unreliable. But Mr Kurup says “the experience I had was one of the most rewarding ones in my life.”

Mzuzu Central Hospital is a busy hospital in the Northern region of Malawi that serves a population of over 2 million people. It has just enough external funding and inventory but lacks manpower.

Mr Kurup explains “with no other trained trauma surgeons in over 200 kilometres radius, together with the local consultant surgeon you are an indispensable part of the set-up. The number of trauma operations carried out over the four-week period was more than three times what you usually do in the UK.” 

Enjoyably, there were also plenty of opportunities for social interaction over the weekends and Mr Kurup’s wife who accompanied him made many new friends. A flash strike by the pilots of Kenya Airways meant they also acquired a free mini break in Nairobi and were able to tick off a Kenyan safari from their bucket list.

Whilst in Malawi, Mr Kurup met some Catholic missionaries from Kerala who have worked in the region for many years. Father Sojan and his colleagues support local communities, especially in healthcare, along with their routine job. Their main project is a maternity hospital in Lusangazi which is funded by a group of nurses in the Netherlands. The second is a clinic in Nthungwa, again near Mzuzu. After initial donations to get the project started, they now face severe fund shortages due to rising costs.

Since returning to the UK, Mr Kurup has set up a charity fund to help build a hospital in Malawi too. The fundraising target is £10,772. Any donations to this very worthy cause can be made through Mr Kurup’s JustGiving page.

Back in the UK, at Boston west Hospital, Mr Kurup performs various foot and ankle operations including scarf osteotomy for bunion, fusion/replacement surgery for big toe arthritis, keyhole ankle surgeries, ankle ligament reconstructions, heel/Achilles pain surgery, treatment of ankle sports injuries, and platelet-rich plasma injections for tendonitis.

Mr Kurup also runs a Medico-legal clinic at Boston West Hospital and prepares medical reports for personal injury and road traffic accident claims.