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A Doctor's Volunteering Experience in Sub-Sahara Africa

After intense deliberation, I finally settled on Africa as the destination for my medical elective. The choice was widely influenced by the passion I have for HIV/AIDS. HIV medicine has grown tremendously since the disease came into being in the 1980s, but as it is, medical students in UK have little exposure, largely because there are relatively fewer patients. Sub-Saharan Africa has a high prevalence of the debilitating illness and hence my choice.

After making that crucial decision I made a point of contacting UKMSA, an organization of medical students from the United Kingdom that aims at ensuring its members are united. I got very sound advice on electives. I even got to know of ProjectsAbroad, a sponsor of UKMSA, which facilitates placements abroad in various disciplines such as business, medicine law and journalism. The sponsor organizes voluntary work, summer and elective placements in various continents. UKMSA, which supports doctors to be, also provided me with information on conferences and opportunities that I could take advantage of during my medical elective. UKMSA exhorted me to take some precautionary health measures to sentinel my haleness.

Armed with the new knowledge I proceeded to find out more. It turned out that disease precaution in Central Africa was mandatory for all visitors, so as to prevent them from contracting baneful diseases. Since prevention is better than cure, I took a dose of Mefloquin a week before departure. I also got vaccinated against Yellow fever, but as it turned out, it was not endemic in the country I was travelling to. I read extensively on how to protect myself from these diseases. Literature had it that those who live in these endemic areas have developed immunity against the pathogens, but this did not apply to visitors like me.

I got everything ready and eventually the time to depart came. I landed in the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on a fine afternoon, after which I boarded a bus to the busy hospital. During my stay I got to interact with university lecturers, who I found very knowledgeable. I was surprised at the many studies they had done with regard to my subject of interest. Medical students here are very industrious, warm and welcoming. We created a rapport quickly. They were always eager to help whenever I was lost. I was able to settle quickly, and for two months I felt so much at home. I was staying in a big house with other medical students. It was only then that it struck me that Tanzania is a preferred destination for students seeking to do their medical electives  abroad. After speaking with other students it came out that Work The World – a private organisation specialist offering medical electives in Tanzania, could organise the whole elective and I must admit that in my case they did a fantastic job.

I fell in love with the country. Two months lapsed quickly. I was at tear point when the time came for me to leave my newly found home to my real home.

John P. is a medical student who had the chance to experience a medical elective abroad, strongly recommending it to all healthcare students.

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