I think this weekend was a bust just so this week could be awesome.
Yesterday, Dr. Koshuma showed me a project he’s been working on for a while. He’s about to retire in a few years and has commissioned an organization called Sunlight Girls Foundation, which focuses on health and education for women and girls. They have about 10 goals, some of which include HIV literacy, keeping girls in school, giving a home to those abused/orphaned, and providing solar power and clean water to rural villages (girls/women end up spending 6-7 hours a day walking back and forth to get water instead of working and going to school). This foundation is so up my alley – they hope to focus on education to give these historically underserved populations a chance to really succeed.
The foundation definitely got my wheels turning and I proposed to Dr. Koshuma that we set up a program for UNC students (premeds and med) to travel and work with the organization, volunteering and gaining experience at the same time. It would be similar to the programs that already exist in other parts of the world: Honduran Health Alliance, Himalyan Health Exchange, PPS, etc. It would encourage education between the premeds and med students (med students teaching/mentoring the premeds), promote health in the Tanzanian community where they need it the most, and give people an opportunity to visit hospitals, outpatient clinics, and mobile clinics. I won’t bore you with the details, but I really hope I can make this idea a reality! (I think I really needed a project, tbh)
Anyway, it was a slow day in clinic so I also talked to Dr. Koshuma about going to a hospital to observe (maybe assist?) surgeries, going to an orphanage, and a primary school. He was super excited for me and said he would get it all set up! I can’t wait – these are three things that I really wanted to do while I was in Tanzania.
Okay, now about the medicine – it’s been going really well. The past 2 days, Dr. Koshuma has left to go to town at 1pm so I’ve just been seeing patients on my own. Granted, I do a history, physical, analyze labs, and come up with a plan on my own, but check with the nurse on staff to see if they agree with me. A few times when the case was complicated or the lab was closed, I gave patients a day’s worth of medicine (usually painkillers) and asked them to come back the next morning so Dr. Koshuma could see them. The next morning, Dr. Koshuma agreed with my plans! It’s hard to describe the feeling, but the affirmation from him is a huge confidence booster.
I’ve become really good at recognizing typhoid, malaria, and other infectious diseases. I finally hear the rales and crackles of pneumonia (though I have yet to hear the dullness to percussion). I can pinpoint gastric ulcers without doing a physical exam, although I do it anyway to confirm my suspicion (they’re super common here – food’s spicy). Dr. Koshuma has been impressed a few times when I recognize recurring patients. I’ve successfully placed IVs, sutured, and dressed wounds. It’s gotten to be fun to go to clinic and “be in charge” when Dr. Koshuma is gone – previously, this would have been mind numbingly terrifying. Today, i spoke enough Swahili to converse with a patient who couldn’t speak English (the nurse was there as backup just in case). Granted, it was super broken Swahili and she probably had a good laugh after, but I did it!
The only thing I haven’t gotten to see that I wanted to is a delivery. Once, a laboring mother came in but she was over 30 years old and deemed too high risk for this clinic, so she got referred to the district hospital. The other time was a delivery overnight, so I checked in on mom and baby the following morning but missed the drama of the delivery. I hope I get to see a delivery, but either way I know I’ll see plenty on rotations at UNC so it won’t be the worst thing in the world.
All in all, it’s been a good week to start (fingers crossed, knocking wood as I write this so I won’t jinx myself). I got set up to go on a safari for a reasonable price, might be going to Arusha this weekend with Dr. Koshuma, and next week I think I’ll be going to the hospital, orphanage, and school! It’ll be a surprise if I don’t find a way to adopt a baby before coming back home (jk, mom and dad). Ahsante for reading – I’ll try and take more pictures for the upcoming posts.