Dr. Frank Asiimwe is a general surgeon and a trainer for fistula surgery. His unassuming manner and tenacity of purpose undoubtedly lend confidence to the obstetric fistula patients he treats in Uganda. Dr. Asiimwe notes that fistula repair is challenging for patients. Finding a center that provides this service is not easy. Once found, repair centers often have limited bed space, which means that women have to wait for surgery. Even after a successful repair, many women find it difficult to reintegrate into society. Following surgery, women need access to postoperative care, and if they become pregnant, they will require prenatal care and cesarean sections for future deliveries; women who face economic hardships may be at risk for developing another fistula after a successful surgery. But overcoming these challenges brings about a transformation in the women’s lives. Having spent the last four years at Kagando Mission Hospital in rural Uganda, he observes that when surgery allows a patient to be continent again, “it changes her entirely… the satisfaction it brings to me is what has kept me doing it.”
Dr. Asiimwe earned his medical degree in 1996 and became a qualified surgeon in 2005. He has performed more than 500 fistula surgeries during his career. A successful obstetric fistula repair requires many elements: skilled surgeons and medical staff, equipped operating rooms, and quality preoperative and postoperative care. Dr. Asiimwe explains that fistula care can pose many challenges. Treatment can be complicated and difficult; cases can be complex; becoming a skilled surgeon takes patience and resilience. Dr. Asiimwe developed his fistula surgical skills through trainings at Kitovu Hospital in Uganda. Supported by Fistula Care, he also trained as a trainer with Dr. Steve Arrowsmith aboard the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital managed by Mercy Ships. (Fistula surgeries and training for trainers aboard the ship have been supported by Fistula Care.) In 2005, when Kagando Mission Hospital partnered with EngenderHealth, he went from providing approximately 30 repairs per year to 160 per year.
Dr. Asiimwe has shown a long-term dedication to honing his skills and providing women with quality care. Currently, he is studying in Tanzania to become a urologist. Fistula services at Kagando Mission Hospital are in the very able hands of Dr. Robert Olupot and Dr. David Lyth. When asked what he will do when he has finished his studies, he does not hesitate to explain: “I’ll return to Uganda and practice urology and fistula repair.” Uganda is lucky to have such a skilled, dedicated surgeon, and the Fistula Care project is honored to have supported Kagando Mission Hospital and the work that Dr. Asiimwe and his colleagues continue to do.