African doctor glad to be here

Published 11:24 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dr. Caleb Yongkuma is the newest member of the Andalusia medical community.

The doctor of internal medicine, who recently completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of South Alabama, is a native of Cameroon, West Africa.

Yongkuma said he came to Andalusia because he likes the feel of a small community where it is easier to know people.

Andalusia Regional Hospital CEO Mark Dooley said he is pleased to have a doctor specializing in infectious diseases on the local medical staff.

“Our goal is to provide patients the resources they need so they don’t have to leave here for health care,” Dooley said. “Bringing an infectious disease specialist to our staff helps us work toward that goal.

“Dr. Yongkuma’s references are as good as any I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We are very pleased to have him on staff.”

Yongkuma, who joined Vyas and Vyas, MD, about three weeks ago, said infectious diseases often go overlooked while physicians treat the symptoms of a disease.

For instance, he said, a patient might be treated for problems that are complications of HIV, without the HIV ever being detected. Similarly, other diseases like herpes and syphilis might not be the focus of treatment, but could be the underlying cause of problems for which patients seek treatment.

There are also many other illnesses that fall under the category of infectious diseases, he said, including the flu.

And what about swine flu?

“I think the news has blown in out of proportion because of fear of what happened in Mexico,” he said.

Yongkuma said it was his father’s influence that led him to study in the United States.

“My father studied in the United States in the 70s,” he said.

The Ohio State University graduate was the Baptist education secretary in Cameroon and also pastored a church.

“He has taken retirement, but he still preaches,” Yongkuma said of his father. “He thought I would get the best education in the United States and wanted me to come here.”

Yongkuma earned an undergraduate degree in biology at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pa.; studied at the Boston University School of Public Health; at Ross University School of Medicine in the West Indies; has completed internships in psychiatry and in internal medicine and completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Mobile; and a fellowship in infectious disease at USA.

Two of Yongkuma’s seven siblings also have studied in the United States and in Canada and are nurses. His five other siblings are in Cameroon.

Yongkuma said his father also manages an orphanage that is home to 34, ranging in age from 3 to 15. Dr. Yongkuma said watching the orphans helped shape his career choices.

“All of them are kids whose parents have died or have HIV,” he said.

He said when he and his sisters travel home to West Africa, they are anxious to see their father, but worry most about what to take to the children in the orphanage.

“Always we are thinking, ‘What can we do for them,’” he said.

He will be joined in Andalusia by his fiancée, who is a nurse, and her daughters, who are 12 and 9, at the close of the school year.