We have here with us Dr. Petros Kahsay, a Gastroenterologist. After finishing his medical education in Europe in 1991, Dr. Petros got his second degree in Gastroenterology in 1994. After getting his degree, he worked at the Addis Ababa University as assistant professor where he did his tireless research on hepatitis type E for years.
Dr. Petros then moved to America and continued his research on digestive organs cancer at the Stanford University in California among many institutions.
Today, Q&A invites the brilliant Dr. Petros to share his medical experiences and give us health tips.
- Your stay here in Eritrea…
I came here five years ago. The main reason I wanted to come to my country and give free service was to help people who were going abroad to get examinations and treatments save money and energy. Once John F. Kennedy said, “Ask what you can do for your country rather than what your country can do for you”. This is one of the inspirational quotes that I have always kept in my heart. I joined the medical school to help people, my people. That is why I wanted to come here and serve my people in any medical assistance. As Eritreans we have a unique history. Almost every family has lost their loved ones to bring peace to the country. I have always felt that, all those heroes and heroines who gave their lives for their country were intellectuals and talented individuals. I wanted to carry their promise. I wanted to continue their legacy. I know nothing can compensate what they have given us, and I know what I am doing here is nothing compared to what they paid for this country. But at least I can give what I can to my people.
Back in America, we established a medical organization EMNET, where we gathered to annually send medical instruments to Eritrea. My older sister Dr. Yordanos Khasy is the chair-person of the organization. The organization includes Eritreans in the medical field in America, Canada and now Europe. Every Eritrean helps us raise money to send the medical tools.
So, while I was here, I was fortunate enough to work at the endoscopic clinic for five years. We were able to help around seven to eight people a day. Before, those people need to travel to other countries to do the examinations and get the treatments which cost a lot in foreign currencies. For procedures which used to take weeks to get done, we were able to figure out the issues in less than an hour. Endoscope isn’t only used as diagnosis but as treatment as well. Besides, we were able to detect early stages of cancer and were able to help those people get proper treatments.
- How does our lifestyle influence our health?
At the time when the Eritrean society had hardships with transportation all they could do was walk for miles to get from point to point, which was a healthy way to burn the calories and maintain their health. Also, the type of food we used to eat when I was a kid was organic. People weren’t in to cheese or carbohydrates like today which is n e g a t i v e l y a f f e c t i n g their health. N o w a d a y s , obesity is a m u l t i b i l l i o n dollar health issue around the world. People are struggling to live with the consequences of obesity; blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. I remember when we were kids right after school, you see girls would play games running around and jumping ropes and the boys would play soccer or some sort of sporty activities. These days, kids would rather play video games, watch TV and play games on their tablets instead of doing physical activities. This is really bad. One of the many reasons obesity is pervasive in the world is leading a bad life style. What is sad is that people don’t give attention to their hereditary health history. If your family suffers from diabetes or you lost a family member to these kind of diseases, how come you feed your child or yourself junk food? Parents should really consider what they are feeding their kids.
- General health knowledge of our society…
That is one of the things that make me be concerned. Eritreans have a general consensus on health. If a person feels ill, people would advise him/her to take, for instance honey. They are absolutely right; honey is one of the best foods that are good for our health. However, it is not a medicine. Also, can a diabetic take honey? No, absolutely not. Not because honey is bad, but because the person is in fact a diabetic. People should ask themselves, what it will do to them considering their health. Let’s take garlic. People take it so that it can reduce their cholesterol level and their blood pressure. Garlic is good when taken, at the right amount, with food. But at the same time, when taken improperly, it can severely damage your liver as it is an acid. The same goes with the constant use of anti-biotic or anti-pain. If one takes a tremendous amount of anti-biotic such as declofenac whenever you feel any sort of pain, the medicine damages your kidney in the long run. It might relieve you from the pain for the time being; however it has its own side effect. What sort of pain are you feeling? When are you feeling the most pain? Why? Do you need to go to the hospital? People should ask these questions before they take any kind of pain relief meds which can end up causing another health problem.
Our society needs awareness on the things I just mentioned above. That is why I have been on television on the Doctors on the Studio program and did many interviews on various topics and answered questions from the audience. Also, I prepared a book which was written in Tigrigna in the most understandable way to explain what you are feeling, what you should do and when you need to go the hospital? For instance, it talks about the kind of headaches you can experience in your daily life; Tension headache comes with staying at the computer for hours doing mind work which can be treated through massaging your shoulder and neck with warm water. There is pain that comes with hangover, which can be treated by drinking water. However, if you have a hard headache all of a sudden, it can probably mean brain hemorrhage which means you have to get to the hospital immediately. Again, one may have a headache from the time one starts a day, throughout the day, but is ok when he/she goes to bed. If this kind of headache is constantly occurring it could probably be a brain tumor which needs to be checked right away. The book deals with the types of pains that might occur and what pains should you be concerned about and what you can just treat simply. I believe that the book can help the people as a guidance of their health. It is still not published, but when it does, I want to donate the money to the orphanage in Eritrea.
- How important is Doctor-patient relationship?
A doctor gets half of the information from the way his patient walks from the door to the chair, the way the patient sits and talks. A patient should always express him/her self. Even when the doctor is tired or busy, the most important thing to do is listen to the patient. The physical and internal exams should come after the patient is relaxed.
A doctor has to know the full history of the patient. There are hidden health problems that you can only reveal after talking to the patient, which may be causing health problems. The patients should trust the doctor, and that is when you can get the result you want. So, it is very important to treat a patient with the utmost respect and make a patient feel at ease. That cures faster than the meds.
- Thank you for having us Doctor.