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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT students work with Moi University Hospital to improve wound care in Kenya

Lorianne Willett
The UT Austin School of Nursing building on September 17, 2023.

Almost exactly one year ago, nursing professor Julie Zuniga and mechanical engineering professor Janet Ellzey won the President’s Award for Global Learning, receiving the opportunity to travel to Kenya with hopes of improving wound care treatment.

Facing a medical crisis with a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:25, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya struggles with preventing patients from developing bed sores and various wounds. This July, Zuniga and Ellzey traveled to Kenya with a team of 14 students to study the urgent need for wound care technology.

Zuniga, the lead organizer on the project, said the idea first developed in 2019.

“The nurses said their number one issue is preventing wounds in their hospital, because it greatly decreases health outcomes and quality of life,” Zuniga said. “These are young people getting wounds at a rate much higher than you would see in the U.S.”

Collaborating since last October, Zuniga and Ellzey, alongside their team of students and the nurses at MTRH, address the crisis using sustainable and locally sourced materials. 

Through Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, a partner of Dell Medical School, Zuniga realized the benefits of a collaboration with Moi University.

“I took the role of supporting their work and finding out what was most important to them,” Zuniga said.

Both Zuniga and Megha Bhatia, a Plan II and health and society senior, emphasized the important work of local nurses and professionals.

“It’s easy to have your biases and what you think about a certain area translate into your work,” Bhatia said. “(Local nurses) were the ones who really kept us in check.”

Zuniga said Margaret Mungai, deputy director of nursing at MTRH, played a large part in instituting the program by offering her wound care expertise. With the help of Moi University, each team of UT students closely collaborated with a Moi student and an MTRH nurse.

Bhatia said she worked with four other students on team Uturn, a proposal for a patient turning device made out of easily accessible materials — in their example, a recycled T-shirt. The final product, a large piece of material with handles, made it possible for one person to rotate patients alone, rather than the usually required two people.

Reha Kakkar, a Plan II and neuroscience senior, said she appreciates the diversity of disciplines within her team, which hosts members studying business, international relations and more.

“That’s something I really resonate with,” Kakkar said. “There is a space for the humanities in science, and there is a space for science in the humanities.”

One of the most impactful parts of the experience, Bhatia said, came from the kindness displayed by the hospital staff.

“I got to see (the nurses) make their patients laugh,” Bhatia said. “I got to see them change the wound dressings of their patients and distract them the whole time, and encourage them and support their family members.”

Since leaving Eldoret, Zuniga, Ellzey and the four student research teams continue to innovate in Austin. Zuniga said she anticipates further collaboration and possibly return trips in the future. 

“We’re still gathering data,” Zuniga said. “There’s more iterations of the tools that still need to be done … So we’re still in it.”

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Double Coverage Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Double Coverage Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.