Arbutus Medical was founded in 2014, through a collaboration between a group of biomedical engineers from the University of British Columbia’s Engineers in Scrubs program, and surgeons from the Uganda Sustainable Trauma Orthopaedic Program (Vancouver, Canada) and Mulago National Referral Hospital (Kampala, Uganda). The team’s goal was to develop a radically affordable surgical drill that would ensure that orthopaedic surgeons at Mulago always have access to safe power tools. Arbutus Medical has leveraged their founding innovation to continue to grow and aid in surgery in Uganda and worldwide.
Medical equipment is expensive. Overly expensive surgical tools are a barrier to care and pose an added strain to healthcare systems worldwide. This ultimately affects everyone - across geographies, demographics, and socio-economic conditions. Using the concept of frugal innovation, we are providing affordable surgical equipment that is accessible to all and helps to alleviate this financial burden. With our tools in hand, surgeons worldwide can provide the best possible care for all patients.
Dr. Kisitu Kyengera is an orthopaedic surgeon in Mbarara, Uganda. Arbutus Medical first met Dr. Kisitu when he was a senior orthopaedic resident in 2013. For the last six years, Dr. Kisitu has been establishing the first-ever orthopaedic surgery practice Mbarara Teaching and Referral Hospital and single-handedly performs the second-highest caseload of any regional referral hospital outside Kampala. Needless to say, Dr Kisitu knows what it's like to start from scratch.
When he first started, in order to drill holes in the bone to fix fractures, Dr. Kisitu only had access to a nonsterile hardware drill or manual hand-crank drill. Both tools were dangerous and inefficient, sometimes leading to complications or forcing Dr. Kisitu to treat fewer patients. Dr. Kisitu acquired Arbutus Medical's DrillCover system in 2015 and has been drilling safely and efficiently ever since.
Dr. Kisitu recently described how a simple orthopaedic surgery could be life-changing for patients in rural Uganda. He told us the story of Moses, a thirty-something refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Moses had been riding his motorcycle, crashed, and fractured his femur - an injury that can only be fixed with surgery. Like most victims of orthopaedic trauma in Uganda, Moses was informally employed (earning cash), so his income stopped when he could no longer work. Since Moses was the primary breadwinner for his family, his three school-aged children had to take a break from school because they couldn't afford the school fees without Moses' income.
Moses critically needed surgery; without it, he would end up with a lifelong disability, and his family would face a downward socioeconomic spiral. With Arbutus Medical's tools, Dr. Kisitu was able to safely treat Moses to get him back to a healthy, productive life, and help his children get back to school.
In 2018, Dr. Kisitu was awarded the Orthopaedic Trauma Association's Humanitarian Scholarship in recognition of his work advancing orthopaedic trauma care and clinical research leadership in Mbarara, Uganda. Dr. Kisitu treats roughly 300 patients with similar stories to Moses every year.