Introduction & General Information

Aerial viewTenwek Hospital is a 300-bed Christian Mission Hospital located in the rural highlands of Kenya, 150 miles NW of Nairobi. It was founded by American nurses in the 1950s and its first physician, Dr. Ernest Steury, arrived in 1959. (The book, Miracle at Tenwek, tells his inspiring life story.)

Today, Tenwek serves 600,000 Kipsigis people in the region and receives referrals from throughout Kenya and surrounding East African countries. Learn more at the Tenwek Hospital website.


Tenwek is a major training center with residencies for African physicians in Family Practice and General and Orthopedic surgery through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). About sixteen interns do their first year of training at Tenwek each year; approximately 22-25 residents serve at Tenwek in Surgery, Orthopedics, and Family Practice. There is a large Nursing School on campus as well as a Chaplaincy School. Tenwek has a large, active Community Health department impacting a wide geographic area and serving as a model program for developing countries.


Neurosurgery Services

Can I really use my neurosurgical skills in rural Kenya? Yes! There is a great need for neurosurgeons in Kenya, with only 1 provider for every 2 million people, compared to 1 for every 60,000 in the US.  This need is particularly seen in rural settings, as less than half the population has access to a neurosurgeon within two hours of their home. Tenwek has been offering full-time neurosurgical services since September 2016 and has developed the infrastructure necessary to make good use of your skills.



The Role of the Neurosurgeon at Tenwek

The neurosurgery service is anchored by Dr. Will Copeland who came to Tenwek with his family as a full-time missionary in 2016 after completing his neurosurgery residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. There is also a full-time neurosurgical clinical officer (equivalent to a physician assistant), and a monthly rotating resident from the general surgery residency program.  There is occasionally an interested medical student or medical officer intern who requests to rotate as well.

The inpatient census is usually between 10 and 15 patients. Formal teaching rounds are held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 0700.  Monday is the main clinic day where 30 – 40 patients are typically seen, though nearly every day there are additional consults from clinic, casualty (the ER), or other hospital services.

There is a smaller scheduled clinic day on Thursdays.  Our clinical officer and rotating resident assist in seeing all clinic patients and consults. Operations are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as many Thursdays.  Neurosurgery has a dedicated room and there are two full-time nurses that assist with all cases.

The average weekly volume is between 6 and 8 scheduled cases, though there are always some urgent/emergent ones to be added.  Cases encompass both adults and pediatrics.  Approximately one-half of the operative volume is the result of trauma, hydrocephalus, or spina bifida, and the remaining half related to a variety of pathologies such as benign intracranial tumors, degenerative and infectious spine disorders, and aneurysms.

Technically the neurosurgical consultant is always on-call, though typically emergent cases overnight will be handled by the surgical residents and reviewed with the consultant the following morning.


There is a variety of modern equipment including a Stryker electric drill, Zeiss NC4 microscope, Storz flexible endoscope, a multitude of spinal implants, aneurysm clips, and more. An electronic medical record and PACS imaging system facilitate patient encounters.  On-site imaging includes X-ray, ultrasound, fluoroscopy, and CT, though MRI is also easily obtainable in the region.




A Rewarding Experience


Serving at Tenwek Hospital is an incredibly rewarding and enlightening experience. Most visiting neurosurgeons prefer to stay at least two weeks, but any length of visit is welcome. Perhaps most meaningful is the chance to teach the residents, all while encouraging them in their desire to provide Christ-like care to their patients.  On graduating they take the neurosurgical skills they’ve learned to other parts of the country, thereby multiplying your efforts at Tenwek.





Travel and Housing

Most physicians who serve at Tenwek do so under the auspices of World Medical Mission, a branch of Samaritan’s Purse (SP) It is a long journey to Kenya but once there, SP has staff who meet you at the airport and arrange a night at a guesthouse in Nairobi if necessary.

SP drivers will drive you four hours to Tenwek through the Rift Valley and center of Maasai land. There is a comfortable guesthouse on campus with private apartments. There is also a  common area and cooking staff (or you can cook yourself). Tenwek is in a rural mountainous area surrounded by small farms and tea plantations. It is a family-friendly environment and a safe area. Elevation is 6,000 ft so although you are near the equator the climate is moderate and changes with the rhythm of “dry” and “rainy” seasons.

African Safari Opportunity



The world famous Maasai Mara game preserve is just two hours south of Tenwek. Many visitors work with the hospital staff to arrange a short visit to “The Mara.” Hospital volunteers receive significantly discounted rates for this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Learn more about the Fairmont Mara Safari Club in this video.



Where do I go from here?

If you are interested in serving at Tenwek or being part of our Neurosurgery team, please contact Brett Dietze ( or Dayna Wright who oversees volunteer physicians for Tenwek at World Medical Missions ( /828-278-1168).