Frontier Nursing University (FNU) alumna Dr. Rhoda A. Ojwang, DNP, FNP-C, Class 17, is leading an organization with an ambitious mission: “To make healthcare accessible among the underserved in Kenya, across Africa, and eventually globally.”
Dr. Ojwang, who lives in San Diego, California, works with Advanced Pain Associates, an interventional pain management practice in Imperial Valley treating and managing acute and chronic pains. She also serves as the president and founder of Healthcare Access International Group (HAIG), a 501c3 non-profit organization incorporated in San Diego in 2018 dedicated to making healthcare accessible worldwide. HAIG’s mission is made possible through short-term medical mission trips to underserved areas.
“I decided to start HAIG because I am originally from Kenya,” Ojwang said. “Growing up I was privileged to be brought up in a family where I went to the best schools and received top quality health care services when I was ill. Throughout my nursing career here in the United States, I constantly thought of ways to give back to my own people, particularly those who were not as privileged as I was. I had a burning desire to make healthcare accessible to those in need. Lack of access to healthcare and the increasing rate of poverty is a growing global public health problem. Although the same is true for developed nations, the developing nations are in dire need of basic healthcare.”
HAIG strives to connect people with sustainable healthcare systems to help individuals manage their diseases and stay connected with their health care providers. Ojwang says that HAIG is focusing on Kenya currently, and plans to spread its wings into some other underserved areas of Africa, and other parts of the world in the very near future.
Ojwang was inspired by her father, who is an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist in Kenya. He also organizes free medical clinics to help the community’s underserved population.
“My passion for serving the underserved came to fruition in April 2016 when I joined a group of health care professionals that went to deliver free medical care to an underserved area in Kenya,” Ojwang said. “This was my first medical mission trip. During this trip, I experienced an epiphany as to how much need there was among this community in terms of access and affordability of basic healthcare.”
Dr. Ojwang began her nursing career at Southwest Tennessee Community College, where she received her Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in 2007. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Chamberlain College of Nursing in 2010 and a Masters in Nursing (MSN) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at Azusa Pacific University in 2013. Soon thereafter, she enrolled at FNU, obtaining her Doctor of Nursing Practice.
“I am a proud FNU alumnus and Wide Neighborhood Ambassador. The DNP role prepares the graduate for the leadership role in the clinical setting, education, and the executive level. Pertaining to HAIG, I believe my leadership skills have been amplified with the attainment of the DNP degree.”
HAIG’s work is 100 percent dependent on donations. All financial donations received go towards the purchase of medications and supplies. Currently, HAIG has three board members and 12 organizing team members.
“We are all volunteers who share the same vision in making healthcare accessible to the underserved areas. Running a non-profit organization is not an easy task. You have to ensure the people you are working with share the same vision as the organization does.”
In 2019, HAIG served the underprivileged community in Kitale, Kenya, during a five-day medical mission trip. Over 900 patients were served through free health screenings for cervical and breast cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, wound care, HIV testing and counseling, ENT, and vision screenings. Patients were referred for continuity of care, treatment initiation, medication management, and follow-up. This was made possible through a partnership with AMPATH Kenya, which is an academic medical partnership between North American Academic Health Centers led by Indiana University School of Medicine, and Moi University School of Medicine in Kenya. AMPATH’s mission is to make quality healthcare achievable and sustainable for all. The partnership between AMPATH and HAIG provides comprehensive and preventive care through a sustainable health system that reduces health disparities. HAIG’s 2020 medical mission trip that was scheduled for June 15-18 in Kisumu, Kenya was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “We are hopeful that 2021 will be a promising year to the people of Kisumu in need of HAIG’s medical services”
“HAIG is also very supportive of students and would be willing to take a few FNU students on its upcoming medical mission trips (post-COVID-19) to experience treatment and management of tropical diseases among other cases rarely seen in the United States. HAIG would like to establish this long-lasting partnership with FNU. Student participation in HAIG’s medical mission trips would count towards their clinical hours as the HAIG team has medical professionals who would offer preceptor-ship and sign for hours.”
Ojwang said that one of the primary areas of focus for HAIG is preventative medicine. She noted that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in low and middle- income countries, due to inadequate access to screening and treatment.
“HAIG is at the forefront of increasing awareness about this killer disease through screening and vaccination. Global health focuses on improving people’s health worldwide, reducing inequalities, and protecting society from global threats such as preventable diseases that do not stop at the national borders.”
To learn more about HAIG, visit their website at www.haighealthcare.net.
At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Couriers, and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community who are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality health care to underserved and rural populations.