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A message to the SAN network

Filed under: Uncategorized

Post by Rhea Anna Kurian, GEMx Student Ambassador for Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical College. Her two-year term as student ambassador officially ends on July 20, 2018.  

Hello my fellow SAN members!

This is Dr. Rhea Anna Kurian, from MOSC Medical College, Kolenchery, Kerala, India and a proud member of the GEMx SAN. For a medical student like me who belongs to a medical school in a rural area of India, the opportunities that GEMx had provided were probably the best I could get as an undergraduate.  Of all that GEMx has offered me as an ambassador, my student elective in Israel is the most important and memorable one. I was blessed to have had a chance to spend one month (November- December) in the Internal Medicine department of Soroka Medical Centre, Beersheva, Israel under Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Dr. Lior Zeller, Head, Internal Medicine Department C, Soroka Medical Center, Israel

All three of us who did the elective together were guided well by the Gemx officials and the Gemx representatives at Ben Gurion and of course by our Gemx coordinator, Dr.Anna Mathew. We were allocated the best unit of internal medicine at Soroka, Pnimit Gimmel. Dr. Lior Zeller, the Head of the department, other doctors, residents, interns, students and the nursing staff were very helpful. Although we could not understand the language (Hebrew and Arabic), everyone in the department made sure that they translate it to us and make us understand, through all the ward rounds, meetings, and lectures.

It was also a great opportunity for us to know about the patient population, health conditions and medical practices in Israel and to understand how different it is from our country. The computerized documentation at the hospital was very new to us as we still use papers for documentation in our home country. We got to observe many procedures done in the ward. We also attended the rheumatology OPD of Dr. Lior which was conducted once a week.

With Dr. Mark Clarfield, (Director of Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion and a member of the GEMx advisory committee)

We were lucky to meet Dr. Mark Clarfield, (Director of Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion and a member of the GEMx advisory committee) and to spend an evening with him. Of course, student exchange programs are not just about spending time in the hospital premises. It is also about exploring the country you are in. We had the opportunity to visit a few places in Israel, like the Old City of Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, Haifa etc.

Dr. Ali, Resident, Internal Medicine Department C, Soroka Medical Center, Israel at the Sea of Galilee

As a whole, those 30 days in Israel gave me the best memories I would cherish forever. It definitely gave us a peek into what global medicine is about and that is something a medical student would definitely benefit from. If you get an opportunity to take up an elective, never ever lose it. It is definitely worth a try!










Eric and Aline’s Elective Exchange to Uganda

Filed under: Uncategorized

NIZEYIMANA Eric and AKAYEZU Aline, 5th Year Medical Student from University of Rwanda. We completed GEMx Exchange on Family Medicine at Makerere University Uganda


Eric and Aline on the way toward Makarere University for Elective

Our hearts were very full the first time we received an email confirming that we were chosen to be a part of this amazing elective. The Family Medicine is not yet initiated in Rwanda health system. This was a golden opportunity to learn more and bring back a package of knowledge to share with our colleagues.

It is the dream of every Medical student to do an exchange outside of their usual setting so that they work in another healthcare system to learn and have a different experience that’s why I can’t hesitate to say this was our turn to realize our own.


Eric, Ms. Phionah and Aline at Makerere University









Our journey took 718 km2 from Kigali-Rwanda to Tororo-Uganda training center in Uganda, where the training about family medicine took place.  Arriving at MAKERERE University, we met  Ms. Phionah, the international students’ coordinator at this university. With warm welcomes, she gave an explanation about the exchange and introduced us to the rest of the team.

It was a great experience to travel the long distance on a bus. It was the first time, we took the time to observe the Uganda country, environment, and appreciate how well it is.


During our elective, we stayed at the Crystal Hotel. The hotel was close to the hospital. It was safe, comfortable and calm when you were studying. They had all kind of foods and it was delicious.


Eric and Aline at Crystal Hotel

The hotel was close to the hospital. It was safe, comfortable and calm when you were studying. They had all kind of foods and it was delicious.


Our 2nd day in Uganda was for the introduction to family medicine and orientation at training center, Tororo district hospital. We met with Dr. George Welishe and Dr. Okuuny Vincent, the senior consultants in Family Medicine who greeted us with warm welcomes. We had a  tour of whole hospital, introducing us to all departments of the hospital. We visited patient hospitalization wards, general theater, labor and administration offices &staff, emergency ward, HIV patients department and antenatal and family planning services. Everyone was happy to host us and we were also happy to be among them and excited to be in different healthcare settings. It is a large district hospital, which has many departments.

Eric, Aline, Dr.Okuuny and Dr.Maria (intern from Italy)

The daily schedule was made by morning staff meeting which was followed by ward round, theater, or labor or other department visit in the hospital.

1.Morning staff meeting

Every morning we have presentations on the topics that we were given on schedule. The topics that was chosen by trainers according to two conditions: 1.The most common cases in medical career related to the family medicine in which they think that will be useful to us along our internship and medical career. The second condition is the cases that are mostly found in Uganda healthcare setting especially in Tororo district hospital.  . Under consultant supervision, we had discussions in which they taught us on both our presented topic and presentation skills.

 2. Hospitalization Patients, Internal Medicine wards round

Aline, Eric, with Family Medicine Post-graduates Dr.francais and Dr.Christine on right and word round team on right

We had a daily attendance of ward round with the rest of the team which was made by family medicine consultants, family medicine postgraduates, nurses, and other medical doctors. I gained more experience in patient clerking and presenting during this activity and from this I understood that medicine is the same all over the world because it was very exciting to be able to make a diagnosis for a patient from another setting and participate in patient management by the same knowledge.

This ward round also emphasized on bedside teaching according to the case as long as also that most of the attendants were students. This was occupying a big part of our exchange where we learned much as found more cases that we didn’t see in our healthcare setting. Here I can list sickle cell diseases associated with malaria which is more common in the pediatric setting here, sepsis secondary to septic abortion, HIV and TB were more frequent in general wards especially in young people. We have seen some special cases like Asthma attack, dog bite, and pregnancy on sickle cell disease.

We leaned from all the cases and were involved in their management process. We can confirm without hesitation that we are confident in managing patients.

3. Gynecology and obstetrics department

Eric using fetoscope

This was another interesting and productive service that we rotated in. The main objective was to know what services they deliver and get experiences in them as a future clinician and the objective was achieved. The major services that we provided were TORCH screening (toxoplasmosis, other, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex/HIV)  and counseling on results, Prevention of Mother to child transmission of HIV, Family planning, Immunization, Examination of pregnant mothers to assess for any complications that might arise during pregnancy.

We experienced also on the procedures done included vaginal examination, head to toe examination focusing on the abdomen for the pregnant mothers to check for the fetal heart rate through the use of the fetoscope. The LEOPOLD Maneuver like palpation of the abdomen to check for the lie, presentation, and engagement of the fetus. Not only this but also in labor they taught us, conducting spontaneous vaginal delivery, neonatal examination, and resuscitation for the newborn with fetal distress and other complications.

We enjoyed the rotation since we could learn more from each other through discussion of patient’s condition and be sharing an idea with the rest of the team which was mostly made by midwives.

4. HIV patients clinic

Eric (left) and Aline *right in HIV clinic consultation

In all the time we work at Tororo district hospital, we rotated also in HIV clinic. The services provided were history taking and physical examination for HIV patients to access drugs adherence, new HIV diagnosed patients counseling, viral load monitoring and shifting of patients from drugs line to another.

Of course, as a referral hospital, the number of attendants was big, At the time we helped around 80 patients and surprisingly the 2/3 was women and reason was that of the polygamy culture in Tororo community which makes the prevalence of  the HIV infection to rise in women than in men


We met friends and we made friendships, we learned much from each other and we made strong networks. Finally, we had fun.


Together with family Medicine post-graduates having fun

Four weeks at the Tororo district hospital for family medicine was productive beyond our expectations. Along all time, rotating in different departments we gain many skills in Family Medicine, the way it works and the services it provides. As long this specialty is not yet initiated in Rwanda health system, I hope to share with my colleague medical students, and other health professionals this skills or others who will be interested in family medicine. In addition to this, we gained also more about presentation skills.

The knowledge gained includes patient history taking and physical exams to list differential diagnosis, appropriate patients management, conducting a normal lobar and c/section delivery. Antenatal care includes Leopard maneuver and use of fetoscope and management and follows up of HIV patients.


All the time we spent in this amazing elective, the main challenge we meet is the languages. After arriving in the Tororo town, we have found that they are more local different languages spoken in the community which account more than 5 which also is related to different tribes with a different culture. This has brought some limitation during patients caring especially in history taking and management, explanation on medication taking and patient diseases education.  So to handle this, we used to organize a team during ward round such that there is one health care provider who speaks both English and one of the local languages so that he/she will translate.

The other challenge we met was to work in low facilities hospital where some materials were not available especially medications and septic environment, which was a barrier in patients treated and also we thought it could be a source of spreading diseases among hospitalized patients. To handle this will need multidisciplinary involvement including Minister of Health in Uganda and other health institutes but we did some advocacy about the problems.


Dr. Cecilia and Enrica (left)

Of course, learning is a continuous process, but in this elective, the first thing I learned is that every healthcare professional can deliver the health services to the community according to his or her level.

The 2nd lesson is that working in limited health facilities can be challenging in the medical career while you were delivering health services but it’s good and important to adapt and use the few we have effectively to help the patients

The 3rd lesson, learning from each other and sharing information and respecting each other is most important in terms of both helping patients and teaching during health care services delivered.

The 4th lesson is As a student I got a lot about professionalism at work during this elective at Tororo district Hospitals. The healthcare professionals were having a positive attitude of medics towards students and their work made me enjoy my stay and practice as a student there.


We want to express my sincere gratitude thanks to the executive committee of GEMx represented by Carol Noel Russo, GEMx Regional representative in Africa Faith Nawagi, the host coordinator at MAKERERE UNIVESITY Mrs. Phionah and my university of Rwanda GEMx coordinator, Dr. UWINEZA Annette and everyone who contributed to making this elective happen

It great pleasure to thank all confident you hard toward us and offer this opportunity in which we learned much skills and experience and all your commitment and effort you made to create a way so that the elective on Family Medicine at Makerere university lead to success.

Special are destined to our trainers, senior consultants in Family Medicine at TORORO District hospital, Dr. Welishe George and Dr. Okuuny Vicent with the rest of the team who showed strong commitment to teach us as much they can, we really highly appreciate their motivation and strategies they use during training  health professionals and I wish they could spread that attitude among the rest healthcare professional trainers around the world.




Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

Post including excerpts of a report by Geoffrey Mphatso Kwabena Wiafe, who recently completed an Ophthalmology elective at the University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya –a GEMx facilitated College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa  (COECSA) Regional Exchange. 

The University of Nairobi is located in Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya. The University of Nairobi started postgraduate training in Ophthalmology in 1978 under the Department of Surgery. Ophthalmology became an independent department in 1990. The department has trained over 159 Ophthalmologists from 1978 to date. The teaching eye clinic is housed by Kenyatta National Hospital and there are various sub specialties including Glaucoma, Oculoplastics, Vitreo-retinal and Anterior Segment which I benefited from during my one month elective period.

Geoffrey examining a patient using an indirect ophthalmoscope

I am very fortunate to be one of the students from my University to be involved in the GEMx Elective program. Being a part of the exchange has further boosted my interest in sub specialties like Oculoplastics and Vitreo-retinal surgery.

The first half of my elective period was primarily spent at the sub specialty clinics, where I had the opportunity to see a wide variety of interesting cases including Aponeurotic Ptosis, Congenital Glaucoma, Choroidal Detachments and Central Serous Chorioretinopathy (CSC). I was also given the opportunity to take patient’s history, examination, and work up. Then, I presented some of the cases to the consultants and they gave me a better understanding of the diagnosis and how to manage those conditions.

I also had the privilege of learning and participating in the screening of Retinopathy of Prematurity, which made me more confident in not only the use of an indirect ophthalmoscope but examining neonates.

The last week of the elective took place in the clinic and operating theatre. Spending time in the operating theatre, I was able to observe for the first time the surgical repair of a retinal detachment. I also observed Laser surgery (photocoagulation) and vitrectomy surgery.

During my elective period I was also fortunate enough to have attended a few lectures on approach to management of Glaucoma and Glaucoma surgery and complications by Professor Damji. I also gained more insight on interpretation of visual fields and optic coherence tomography findings.

Dr Teddy, Dr Muchai (VR Surgeon) and Geoffrey

In general, the elective as a whole was a great experience. Both the consultants and residents were always ready to assist in whatever way possible to make our stay in Nairobi a memorable one. Towards the end of the elective I was certainly more confident and had a much better understanding of the management of several conditions.

Ophthalmology is an extremely rewarding and dynamic field of medicine. This elective gave me the opportunity to acquire more theoretical and practical examination skills. I look forward to using these skills during the rest of my training and career as an ophthalmologist.





Global Educational Exchange in Medicine and Health Professions for the elective opportunity.

College of Ophthalmology of Eastern, central and Southern Africa for funding and organizing.

Ophthalmology Department, University of Nairobi for providing multiple learning opportunities.

Kenyatta National Hospital for providing multiple learning opportunities.

Ophthalmology Department, Mbarara University of Science and Technology for allowing me to undertake this elective.

GEMx Exchange to UKZN

Filed under: GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Nancy Binsari and Tendwa George, 5th year medical students from Kenyatta University who’ve completed an exchange at University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).

Tendwa and Nancy smiling

Tendwa and Nancy ready to go on their exchange


This elective is an opportunity to find out more about yourself and what you want to do in the future. The elective allows you to explore a particular area of medicine or something different, such as research or teaching.

The two of us were selected to participate in the elective term through the GEMx program. Our home school, Kenyatta University was enrolled into this program through the regional platform in Africa for the first time in 2017. Being the pilot group, we were privileged to get a chance to participate in our elective at our host school UKZN (University of KwaZulu Natal) at Wentworth Hospital. Two of our other colleagues also participated in the GEMx program, and were sent to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to the cardiology centre.

We had 4 weeks of rotation in the department of Family Medicine in Wentworth hospital, one of the hospitals for UKZN clinical rotations. Family medicine, formerly “Family Practice” is a specialty devoted to providing comprehensive health care for patients. Family medicine is a three-dimensional specialty, incorporating knowledge, skill and process.

Dr. Mergan Naidoo, the head of department of family medicine at UKZN was our contact person and took us through the orientation at the hospital as well as our clinical rotations in our various sections. With the aid of a well-put logbook, Dr. Mergan Naidoo took us through our objectives for the clinical rotations and also guided us on a quality improvement project that we undertook during our stay at the hospital.

4 people standing and smiling at the Department of Family Medicine

Tendwa, Nancy, Dr. Naidoo and Kenneth at the Department of Family Medicine

Week 1: Out Patient Department (OPD)

Our first week was in the outpatient department (OPD) which is divided into the chronic and acute sections. In the acute section, we clerked patients and presented to the senior doctor in charge, Dr. Oyebola who guided us and corrected us accordingly. We had an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the South African guidelines on management of common conditions of patients in the OPD. We were able to experience a variety of conditions and were tasked to identify or at least make out the differential diagnosis of the presenting complaints.

Of the patients seen, a majority suffered respiratory diseases with TB and community acquired pneumonia leading. We also noted that the country had a large burden of HIV and it was therefore not a surprise that it was in the background in most of the TB infections. We were provided with masks to prevent acquisition of TB in patients. Other conditions we encountered in the OPD were hemorrhoids, gastroenteritis just to mention a few.

Week 2: Accident and Emergency  

Nancy and Tendwa standing in front of Accident/Emergency Department

Nancy and Tendwa outside the accident and emergency department.

The second week of our elective term was at the Accident and Emergency department. This was under the supervision of many doctors. Our task here was again to see patients and clerks, suggest investigations and come up with a management plan. We would then present this to the doctor on call as well as the intern doctor for approval of our approach and advice on what we missed out on. This turned out as a very good way of learning as sometimes they pointed out that we have the theoretical knowledge but need to put more practice into applying it to the patient and seeing them as a whole. We were trained to act like investigators and see beyond what the patient is saying. It was quite interesting because no matter how busy the floor got, the doctor’s would never rush us both in clerkship and in presenting to them. We got really good insight on what it means to be part of a health team and experienced what role we had as doctors.


Week 3: Acute Admission Ward

During our third week we rotated in the acute admissions ward. This is where all acutely ill patients admitted from Accident and Emergency department are transferred for high care and monitoring till they are stable enough to be discharged or transferred to other medical facility or surgical wards. It is during this rotation that we familiarized ourselves with the protocols and guidelines of South Africa for the management of acutely ill patients during the acute phase.

Week 4: HIV Clinic

We spent our final week in Wentworth hospital was spent in the HIV clinic. Here, we learnt under the supervision of Dr. Ryan, we saw newly diagnosed patients as well as follow ups and got to experience first-hand the countries’ way of combating the high levels of HIV infection in the area.

A thorough examination of the patient was also well covered to examine symptoms the patient brought up as well as anything they would have missed e.g. skin rashes or mouth lesions. The consultation would end with the patient understanding all the information being presented and patients were asked to come back for another visit. We had to update them with a full summary of what was discussed in terms of patient health and progression or regression of HIV.

Tendwa and Nancy have masks on their faces

Tendwa and Nancy at the HIV clinic


One of the challenges was the language barrier. It was difficult to communicate with some patients who could only express themselves fully in Xhosa or Zulu. To combat this challenge, the doctors and nurses went out of their way to translate whenever possible and give us English speaking patients to clerk.


1) We would like to thank Dr. Titus Kahiga for his exemplary role in making our exchange possible. He conducted regular meetings with us, guided us every step of the way, and took great measures to ensure we gain the most out of the experience. He acted as a link between us students, the university and the GEMx program. We are not sure that if we were under anyone else our exchange would have even been possible.

2) We would also like to extend our gratitude to Dr. Faith Nawagi. She was always present to respond to questions and concerns right from the first day we began the journey. She was always efficient in communication channels and would reply to emails within a very short time. This helped us with our planning and preparations. We are positive that the program will see greater heights with her commitment and passion for the students.

3) We extend our hearty gratitude to Professor Mergan Naidoo. The professor provided very good mentorship right from the planning phase to the end of our exchange. He also made time for regular interactions to address any concerns we may have had. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Mr.Ifukho, Mr. Vincent and the projects team in Kenyatta University as well as Ms. Anitha from UKZN. They were quite helpful in the processing of required documents both for visa applications and for exchange purposes.

4) We would like to thank the individuals who stood out in our elective term. These individuals managed to take time for us students and gave us an exceptional learning experience.  The staff’s enthusiasm and warmth remains entrenched in our memories as well as their motivation to providing us with a good amount of knowledge. These people include Dr. Ayubola, Dr. David, Dr. Daniels, Dr. Mbaiza, and Dr. Ryan.

5) Our sincere gratitude to the office of the Dean at Kenyatta University school of Medicine and our Dean Prof. Agina for ensuring we had all we required during our stay at KZN, as well as selecting the two of us to represent the school for the elective program at UKZN, South Africa.

6) Lastly, we thank the nursing staff as well as the interns who helped us settle in each department and allowed us the opportunity to help wherever we could.

Introducing Amanda Sit, GEMx Co-Op

Filed under: From GEMx Staff


Hello! My name is Amanda Sit and I am very excited to be a new member of the GEMx team. I am currently a pre-junior Marketing Major at Drexel University and I am the GEMx International Relations Assistant. The reason why I chose GEMx is so that I can foster a deeper understanding for other cultures as well as actively promote health-education globally.

A little about me is that I grew up in Edison, New Jersey a small diverse suburban area before moving into the large city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for my studies. It was a completely new experience since Philadelphia has many unique restaurants and stores to check out! I love to try out new food places and travel.

This photo was taken in the Philippines during low tide.

I love traveling to different places for the culture, food, and activities each place has to offer. My favorite travel destination that I’ve been to so far is the Philippines. Growing up Filipino, I was very fortunate to travel to my mother’s home country and experience the culture. I really enjoyed the food at local restaurants.  Chicken Adobo and Lumpia (Spring rolls) were my favorite dishes to eat. The most memorable part of the trip was island hopping in Coron, Philippines. Seeing the island untouched by modernity was very exciting.

I am a firm believer that GEMx is as good as the team working behind it, and I am very thankful that I get to be a part of the team.

Introducing Eunice Kamami, GEMx Co-Op

Filed under: From GEMx Staff

Hi everyone! My name is Eunice Kamami and I am the GEMx Research Assistant Co-op. I’m currently in my fourth year at Drexel University where I am majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Communication and French. My interests in global health and international background are what really drew me to this position.


I was born in Kenya, moved to America when I was 7, moved back to Kenya for high school, moved to a different part of America for university, studied abroad in France for a year, and then did my previous co-op working with water, sanitation, and hygiene development in Kenya. So, I guess you could say I’ve had my fair share of international exchanges. Each move shaped my worldview and broadened my understanding of race, ethnicity, class, gender and culture. This is why I believe that international experiences can be so rewarding. They often teach importance of being flexible and open minded to people who may have different values, beliefs, or religions. In world that’s only becoming more and more globalized, these are characteristics that are essential for everyone, but especially for those in the medical field, which is why programs like GEMx are so important.

That being said, I’ve had enough complicated visa applications, lost luggage, stolen passports, homesickness and culture shock to know that international experiences can also be challenging. Moving to a different part of the world takes courage, the willingness to start anew and sometimes to be uncomfortable for a bit. Having a good support system in the process can change the outcome of experience. It’s for this reason in particular that I’m so excited to be working to be working with GEMx to help facilitate and support students on their international medical exchanges.

When I’m not getting excited about international programs and global health, you can find me making caramel macchiatos at Drexel where I work as a Starbucks barista. I love listening to podcasts and am always looking for a good recommendation. I also like trying new food or sticking to my favorite cuisine: Ethiopian. On weekends, I’m usually attending concerts, poetry slams, organizing, taking Sunday afternoon naps, trying new recipes, going dancing, or watching scary movies with my two wonderful roommates our cat Steven.

Introducing our GEMx Co-Op, Kaseir Archie

Filed under: From GEMx Staff

Young man in a wool coat smiling

Hello! My name is Kaseir Archie and I am the GEMx program development Drexel co-op. Cooperative education is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience, commonly known as a “co-op”, provides academic credit for structured job experience. Working with the GEMx team has given me the opportunities to not only learn but also to enhance my professional skills. Understanding and observing firsthand the “real-world” application of everything I have learned in class. However, my favorite aspect of GEMx is how much enthusiasm and positive energy the GEMx team brings to the office every day.

I am from North Philadelphia, born and raised. There is just something about the city of Philadelphia that I love so much. That is why I decided to remain here for college. I am currently finishing up my third year at Drexel University, studying finance and management information systems.

young man leaning on stair railing in a large interior space

In the Grand Hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center the Grand Hall (former Reading Railroad Train Shed

My two favorite activities to do are to play ice hockey and do photography. I never really explored my creative side, but as I got older I became to grow fond of the arts. That is what inspired me to find my own medium to create. However, in comparison to photography which is a fairly new hobby, I have played ice hockey since I was eleven years old.

I played for the Snider Hockey program until I graduated high school. Hockey opened up so many new opportunities for me. I had the opportunity to travel the United States, sing the national anthem, and even meet President Bill Clinton! I still skate and play hockey on occasion with friends.

Young man in hockey equipment and uniform

Due to all of my experiences with the GEMx team, I am more prepared, as a student still in college, to take on the professional world than I was when I began my co-op. It is amazing to hear about all of the students and their elective experiences. GEMx has done more than proven its value as an organization to me. A BIG thank you to Justin Seeling (Program Manager), Carol Russo (Senior Coordinator), and Angel Roman (Coordinator) for all they do.

An Ophthalmology Post-Graduate Exchange Experience in Kenya

Filed under: GEMx Post-Graduate Exchanges, GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections, Uncategorized

Post by Dr. Vrunaben Patel, a 3rd year MMed Ophthalmology resident from University of Zambia, who recently completed a GEMx Regional Exchange at the COECSA Institution,  Lighthouse for Christ Eye Centre, Mombasa Island, Kenya

doctor in front of care center

In front of Lighthouse for Christ  Eye Centre, Mombasa Island, Kenya

After all the pre-trip emails and detail fixing I finally sat on my flight to Mombasa, the full moon shining bright right outside my seat window. I was received at the airport by a friendly Lighthouse member of staff (got to read my name off a placard). Clean, convenient and safe housing was provided within the eye centre grounds.


Day one at Lighthouse I met both the consultant ophthalmologists based there. I was shown around the whole centre by the medical director and introduced to all the staff. First word I learnt in Swahili was ‘karibu’=’welcome’ as I was greeted warmly by everyone, including patients I was introduced to. During my elective, I spent most of my time seeing patients in the general clinic as well as the cornea and paediatric clinic. Interesting cases I got to discuss with the consultants included persistent diabetic clinically significant macular oedema, neovasular age related macular degeneration, high myopia in toddler, solar macular burns, branch/central retinal vein occlusions, ocular toxoplasmosis, amblyopia, recurrent corneal erosions, corneal graft complications and viral illness related uveitis.


Doctor performing and eye examination on an adult patient

Examining a patient in general clinic

Doctor in scrubs performing surgery

Performing eyelid graft surgery

Had a few clinical meetings as well, some cases discussed were central serous chorioretinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, oculocardiac reflex, and driver examination. My elective period included two weeks of screening patients and surgeries with visiting paediatric and corneal specialists. I got a chance to observe some penetrating keratoplasty surgeries, Descemets Stripping Endothelial keratoplasty and phacoemulsification; a totally new experience for me. Surgeries I did included 7 small incision cataract surgeries, 2 conjunctival growth excision biopsies, 1 pterygium excision and auto graft, 1 intravitreal injection, eyelid full thickness skin graft, anterior vitrectomy, examination under anaesthesia, and suturing corneal laceration/graft. I also did some dry and cycloplegic refraction using a phoropter for the first time.

plate with local cuisine

Local meal- ugaali and leafy vegetable


Within walking distance of the eye centre lays the town centre of Mombasa Island. Stalls, supermarkets, places of worship all accessed easily nearby. Mostly I would be accompanied by a colleague from the eye centre while sometimes I was able to take walks around the town by myself and went to some local attractions like Fort Jesus. I also got to visit the public beaches on the mainland Mombasa and shopping malls. I was able to appreciate some similarities with Zambian culture- the matatus (mini buses) used for longer distances; ugaali (Nshima) and muchicha (leafy vegetable) as the staple meal. Other foods commonly found were cassava chips, dates, cashew nuts, mabuyu, and fresh coconut water.


Practice at Lighthouse was just like an extension of the work environment from Zambia though I missed having fellow registrars to interact with most of the time. The staff had different levels and exposure to ophthalmology training and so I had a good learning and teaching exchange. It was a minimum-stress environment on most days. I am sincerely grateful to the staff at Lighthouse for an enlightening and happy experience during my elective. I am also thankful to the GEMx team and my school for making this trip possible. Experience, be it that of oneself or of another, is definitely the best teacher and that is what this elective was for me.

Overwhelmed by Good Hearts and Good People

Filed under: GEMx Student Ambassador Network, GEMx Student Reflections, Uncategorized

Post by Syafaf Humaira Binti Aman, global exchange student from Penang Medical College (Malaysia) who recently completed a GEMx Exchange at University of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates.

Who knew, a split-second decision of applying for GEMx Electives, and travelling alone to a country which was 5000km away from home would bring such an impact to my life – especially my medical student life. My name is Syafaf Humaira Aman and I am currently a final year medical student from Penang Medical College, Malaysia.

I’ve always known by my friends as a person who would leap into any great opportunities that comes and this was definitely one of those opportunities that I had decided to venture upon. Despite of that statement making me sound all very brave and courageous, there was still a hint of nervousness and anxiety when I got on the plane, heading to the UAE for my electives. This was the first time I solo-travelled, my first time going to a country that I am very unfamiliar with, and also my first time being a part of a new student community – alone.

Smiling young woman and young man by palm trees shops and restaurants

With Fuad, the student ambassador from University of Sharjah

All the worries and anxiousness slowly started to dissipate away when I was greeted by Fuad, the student ambassador from University of Sharjah (UoS) and his friend Dalia at the airport. Starting from the first meet up, up until the very last day of my stay in UoS, they had definitely helped me a lot – from helping me to settle down in my new dorm, helping the administrative officer to arrange my hospital posting, and introducing me to most of their friends so that I wouldn’t feel very lonely throughout my stay. I truly owe them a lot, as it was so much easier for me to blend in and get used to the new campus life with their help.

One thing I’ve learnt a lot from this experience is actually travelling alone isn’t as bad as I thought it would. It used to be a scary thought back then, but after this elective programme, I’ve came to learn that more opportunities tend to open up when you travel alone. When you’re all alone, you’ll be forced to get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll be ‘pushed’ to make a whole bunch of new friends. Without you even realizing, you’ll find yourself meeting new people, making connections with people that you’ve never intended to meet, and getting inspired by their life stories. This includes meeting a fellow Malaysian occupational therapist who had been working in the UAE for the past 8 years. It was amazing to get to hear her life experiences over there.

As for my clinical posting, I was being posted to Al-Baraha Hospital in Dubai under the Surgical Department. Truth to be told, it was definitely one of the best clinical experience I’ve ever went through my whole life as a medical student!

student posing with group of fellow students and instructors

With surgical team in Al Baraha Hospital, Dubai

The surgical team consisted of this set of surgeons of different nationalities, with years of experiences working at different regions of the world before. One thing I am truly awed was to see how dedicated these surgeons were, in both healing the patients and teaching the students. Despite their tight schedule during the OT days, they would still make time to teach us in the operation theatre, as well as in between the surgeries. Sometimes they would let us hang around at the surgeons’ lounge and they would share their experiences with us students too.

Instructing Surgeon and student in surgery

Me assisting in one of the surgeries done at the hospital while being assisted by the surgeon

During this posting too, I was fortunate enough to be given multiple chances to assist in several surgeries, guided by these aspiring surgeons. Even though the tasks that was given were pretty minor, but it was already more than I bargained for, and come to think of it, it was a fair start for me as a medical student. It was definitely a great exposure for me, one that I would never experience back home. I couldn’t help but to be thankful for these surgeons had never failed to make me feel as part as their team. At times, they would even introduce us students to the patients as the ‘training surgeons’ who had made them (the patients) feel better, and it was definitely one of the best feeling to hear the patients thanking you profusely for treating them. All in all, it was never a day that I wasn’t looking forward to step into the hospital as I knew I would be greeted by them with smiles and the day would then be occupied with bed side teachings, teachings at the outpatient department and multiple case discussions with the whole surgical team.

smiling students outside of hospital

With my groupmates after our daily clinical bedside teachings

My groupmates in Al-Baraha Hospital were truly amazing too. They were all very friendly and my four weeks at the hospital would have never been the same without them. In between the bedside teachings, or after we’ve all clerked patients, we would then be discussing the cases together, sometimes recalling what the surgeons have taught us by the end of each day. Sometimes these so called ‘hangout’ sessions would be filled with us sharing stories about each other’s families, travel stories, and favourite past times. One thing I find interesting in the UAE is that, all of the students there mostly originates from somewhere else outside of the UAE. Some of my groupmates for instance, were originally from Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt and many more. Although they have stayed in the UAE for most of their live, they would still go back there once in a while and they would then share their stories and how their culture are back home. Not just that, they would also be the ones to prepare a long list for me consisting of interesting places I need to visit, and food that I need to try throughout my stay.

smiling girl by waterfront

Me at Madinat Jumeirah, with the Burj Al-Arab in the background

On the weekends, I would then take the opportunity to travel around Dubai, and explore the city as much as possible. The famous Burj Khalifa, Burj Al-Arab, the souqs and the beaches in Dubai were all truly breath-taking. I had even managed to make my way to Abu Dhabi on one of the long weekends during my stay in the UAE. Although it was pretty taxing to travel from UoS to Dubai, it was always be worth it. Taxing, because the transportations were pretty expensive, especially when you’re travelling alone, so sometimes I would need to opt for multiple forms of transportations in order to get to the places that I wanted to go. However, it definitely taught me the value of perseverance, independence and the importance of planning ahead of time.

All in all, not only I had gain ample amount of new knowledge within the medical field, but I had also obtained countless life lessons throughout this elective. It was a whole new level of experience which had definitely built my confidence and I hope that I could emulate all of these invaluable lessons throughout my life as a person, and a medical doctor in the future. I would like to extend my gratitude to GEMx for this once in a lifetime experience, and for encouraging me to step away from my comfort zone, and experience all of this. Not to forget Dr Nabil Sulaiman and Dr Osama Seif for being my supervisors over at University of Sharjah and Hospital Al-Baraha.

My Elective Experiences in the United States: NYC and Miami

Filed under: GEMx Student Reflections, Uncategorized

Smiling student in tropical setting

Post by Abhinaya Sridhar, global exchange student from Kasturba Medical College – Mangalore (India) who completed two summer electives this past year in the United States including a GEMx Exchange at PAGNY in New York City.

Where do I begin? How do I begin describing the most interesting months of my life?

I am a medical student from India and have grown up here my entire life. Having said that, this wasn’t my first trip to the United States. I have been on multiple vacations and even traveled once when I was in high school for a Global young leader’s conference. There is only 1 word that aptly describes what I feel every time I step foot into this country – liberation. I see in front of me, not only what I already have, but, what life could be. I see endless opportunities, ambition, drive and heartfelt dreams – all becoming reality.

My first month was in THE BIG APPLE – the centre of diversity, culture and constant movement. New York made me feel at peace, at home.  I did an elective with PAGNY – affiliated with Gemx. I shadowed under multiple doctors in their private practice setting and it was such an eye opening experience. All the doctors were such good physicians and even better leaders and educators. It was a holistic experience – patient care, patient interaction, interacting with the staff and the nurses- it was truly an honour. I was integrated into the entire decision making process with the patient and given the opportunity to voice my thoughts and opinions in terms of patient care. The private practice clinics were all over new York and it gave me an opportunity to truly see the city, ride the subway and well – be a New Yorker, if I may say so.

three smiling young people on a beach with a carnival prize

GEMx PAGNY visits Coney Island: Abdudallah, Myself and Mercedes with a new “friend”

There were 3 of us in the program and I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues. It felt like we had known each other all along. Needless to say, it wasn’t all work and no play. We did visit Coney Island , walked along the boardwalk , ride the crazy rides and ate at Nathans!!! It was truly a memorable day. We even took the bus down to Philadelphia to meet with the GEMx team. We were in there for hardly a day , but we did manage to see the liberty bell!! The GEMx team was very welcoming and we had a sit in with their administration to speak about the PAGNY experience. It was an endless sea of opportunity and information for all of us.

Three smiling students in front of historic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia USA

Mercedes, Myself and Abdullah visit the Liberty Bell after meeting GEMx and ECFMG Leadership in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Well, before I knew it, it was time for the next elective in – yes!! The tourist and party central of Florida – Miami!!!! If there is anything at all that I’d say to someone travelling to Miami- KNOW YOUR SPANISH. Despite this “tiny” language barrier I was facing, Miami was an adventure in itself. I did my elective rotations in cardiology and radiology with Florida International University. Radiology had always been my Achilles tendon and I wanted to try something challenging and it was so worth it. My radiology elective preceptor was an excellent teacher and I learnt more about radiology that I had tried learning in my 5 years if medical school. I even assisted in bone marrow biopsies, ascitic taps and pleural taps. Learning and being in a hospital setting was definitely a very different experience from the one in New York. The interaction was expanded and spread across so many different specialties, doctors and residents. It was definitely quite challenging- dealing with Spanish and the multitude of doctors and students. And, of course, it wasn’t long before disaster struck.

Yes, actual natural disaster in the form of IRMA. The first category  5 hurricane that Miami was seeing after ANDREW . IRMA was all that anyone could talk about. People were driving out, stocking up, hurricane proofing their houses and  with everyone scrambling to find their safe haven , I naturally tried to the same. I ended up staying with a family friend , who, thank heavens, lived in Miami. We all decided to ride the storm out together. Never before had I experienced a hurricane, let alone, in a city completely alien to me and with people I had known for less than a month.

But, all’s well that ends well and that’s how IRMA left Miami. I feel like I saw the city at its best, post Irma – they recovered so quickly and things were running like clockwork in a matter of a few days.

Ocean Tropical view

In Miami, Florida

There were times I missed New York – its energy, its culture, the vegan food and beautiful buildings. But I grew to enjoy Miami, for the beauty it had to offer. I did visit the Florida Keys before Irma hit and it was mesmerizing. The drive from Miami to the Keys was a thing of beauty.

Academically, it was truly enriching and inspiring. Every person I met had a story, a dream and aspired to be someone someday. Looking back, their experiences and stories have given me the strength and belief that I will make it too.