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Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges

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Post by Henil Upadhyay, a medical student at Pramukhswami Medical College who completed an elective exchange in Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University (SWU) in Thailand through the GEMx-SEARAME Regional Exchange Partnership.

With Dr Sirapat Tulthamaki in the Internal Medicine dept

RÊRM: The Beginning My elective program at the Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University (SWU), Thailand was the beginning of a new adventure as this was my first elective experience. On reaching Bangkok and watching “The City of Angels” rise at dawn on route to SWU was truly exhilarating. On arriving at the university I met Ms. Sureerat Ruangsri from the International Relations Office and Dr Woro Ariandini an elective student from Indonesia. She briefed us about our elective and we took a tour of the university. I had two week electives each in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at HRH Princess MahaChakri Sirindhorn Medical Center (MSMC). The SWU campus is wonderfully designed and comprises of a large lake and multiple canals. We were provided accommodation in the medical student’s dormitory.

With Dr Woro Ariandini, GEMx elective student from Indonesia

With Dr Woro Ariandini, GEMx elective student from Indonesia

RIAN: The Learning Phase My first elective was in Internal Medicine where I met my supervisor Dr Sirapat Tulthamaki. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her. My daily schedule in the Internal Medicine department consisted of attending OPDs, grand rounds, conferences, and ICU rounds. I was able to observe a wide range of diseases both infectious and chronic non-infectious diseases. Interestingly, both India and Thailand share common epidemiology for a lot of diseases. Language is one of the barriers any elective student faces in a foreign land and while most of the patient communication took place in Thai the medical students and professors stepped in whenever possible and helped me overcome this barrier. Along with enriching my clinical knowledge the OPD clinics of various sub-specialities such as Pulmonology, Haematology, Rheumatology, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), etc. gave me a new insight on patient care and an understanding of the health care system in Thailand. My most memorable experience was in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) under Dr Siriphar Chang Sirikulchai. She has been very passionate in teaching medical students and providing comprehensive care to Chronic Kidney Disease patients.

With Dr Vatsal, Dr Ariandini and Dr Maliwan

With Dr Vatsal, Dr Ariandini and Dr Maliwan

The CKD clinic was being run very efficiently by incorporating teamwork from both medical and non- medical staff. They also arranged various activities for dietary counseling, pharmacological counseling, and lifestyle practices. In the afternoon conferences a team of resident doctors would present a clinical case to medical students and a panel of professors who would discuss the case with students at the end. I found that this was a very effective method of teaching clinical subjects as it teaches us how to approach a patient in clinical practice rather than just theoretical knowledge of the subject.

At the Wat Mahathat meditation center in Bangkok

At the Wat Mahathat meditation center in Bangkok

My second elective was in the Paediatrics department under Dr. Patamakom Pruengprasert. My daily schedule was attending ward rounds, OPD clinics, and conferences in the afternoon. Dr. Patamakom was very keen on teaching medical students. After ward rounds, were posted in NICU where premature and very sick babies were being kept so that they can receive round-the-clock care and supervision. In the afternoon I attended the paediatrics OPD under Dr Sombun Chansakunporn and Dr. Panit Taksinstien. The pediatrics department had also started a Well Baby Clinic every Wednesday where all the children were examined for adequate growth and immunization status, and the parents were counseled about the physical and mental growth of the child and the importance of regular follow-up. These electives taught me a lot about Thai culture such as the norm of greeting professors with the traditional “Wai” which I believe inculcates respect for them. Also observable was the high nationalist sentiment in Thai citizens for their country and monarchy. Learning and integrating into Thai culture and customs was truly an exhilarating experience.

RÁK: Love from Thailand We got the opportunity to explore Thailand away from the hospital during weekends. Dr. Nakharin and Ms. Nhoi helped us a lot in making travel plans. I was very fortunate to meet Mr. Maliwan at SWU who became my lifesaver in Thailand. He made sure that we didn’t face any difficulty in our trip due to the language barrier and he even accompanied us on our weekends to Bangkok. My most frequent trips were to Bangkok of course. Public transport in Thailand was easily accessible and it made our trips untiring. Bangkok’s diversity was transcendent. From the Grand Palace’s majesty to the Wat Mahathat’s simplicity and from Chatuchak’s noisy market to Chao Phraya’s serenity. Bangkok had it all. While in Bangkok I got the wonderful opportunity to attend a course on Vipassana meditation at the Wat Mahathat temple. The experience at the Wat Mahathat meditation center has made a profound impact on my mental and spiritual health and has given me a new direction in life.

With Dr Maliwan in Ongkharak

With Dr Maliwan in Ongkharak

My next visit was to Pattaya city. It is located about 100 kms southeast of Bangkok in the Chonburi province. Pattaya which is a peaceful beach city in the day quickly turns into a party spot at night. After spending the day at the Art in Paradise 3D museum we wandered off to the beach in the evening. Pattaya gave us a wonderful experience indeed but it was nowhere near to the trips in Bangkok. One of my major concerns before coming to Thailand was regarding food. I must say initially I was very apprehensive regarding Thai food but soon I was in love with it. The fine balance between different spices to produce that umami taste was only possible in Thailand. The medical students and Leo made it a lot easier for us to understand the Thai menu and they even took us to new places to set our taste buds on fire. I would like to thank ECFMG|FAIMER for their generous contribution towards funding my elective. I greatly appreciate the support of my professors here in India, Miss Elise Moore from GEMx, and Dr. Amarin Narkwichean. I would also like to thank Mr Maliwan for helping us in every possible way during our stay in Thailand and filling it with new adventures. Thailand’s diversity and its all-accepting culture have made me fall in love with it.

To Durban and Back: A Family Medicine Adventure

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Punam Ajay Raval and Grace Vugutsa Magada, medical students at Kenyatta University, Kenya who completed an elective exchange in Family Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Nursing and Public Health (South Africa) through the GEMx-AFREHealth Regional Exchange Partnership.

Our four-week elective at Wentworth Hospital, Durban remains one of the most clinically and culturally-enriching experiences we have had.  From exploring our interests in Family Medicine; a specialty well-established in South Africa, to learning essential clinical skills under highly experienced health professionals; and forging invaluable personal and professional ties, all while relishing the beauty that is the golden coastline of Durban – ‘fulfilling’ might be an understatement!

The Beginning

Our arrival in South Africa was marked by a warm welcome by our host, Vivienne Venter, and her family. In our planning, the resourceful GEMx regional team had provided a list of accommodation options and Viv’s was the most cost-friendly, trusted and reliable. She had hosted several other groups of GEMx elective students and was well-versed with the program. The premises were, admittedly, a bit of a distance from Wentworth, but we were soon acquainted to the public transport system – kumbi, minibus taxis that are much like the Kenyan matatu.

With our home school, Kenyatta University (KU), University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the regional GEMx teams having fully guided us through the application process, travel logistics and clinical placements, we were well-prepared for the program that awaited us. We would be rotating within the different departments of Family Medicine at the Wentworth Hospital in eThekwini health district for a four week span. Each week would have its clearly-outlined set of practical objectives, Continuous Medical Education (CME) sessions, ward work and clinical assessments.

Orientation at Wentworth Hospital

Wentworth Hospital, founded in 1943, is a district hospital that is part of primary healthcare provision in the eThekwini health district, which serves a number of patient catchment areas. The hospital focuses on provision of services that not only restore health, but also facilitate wellbeing of the person and community in its Family Medicine practice. As such, students from the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (University of KwaZulu-Natal) benefit from the hospital during their Family Medicine block. It also has Physiotherapy, Psychiatry, Psychology, Social Work, Dietetics and Occupational Therapy departments among several other community health outreach projects. Additionally, the Accident and Emergency Department receives and handles acute emergencies from the nearby areas. This setting served to expose us to an undeniably holistic system of patient care.

With the South African-Cuban exchange students at a teleconference session

With the South African-Cuban exchange students at a teleconference session

Our elective began with a comprehensive orientation by Professor Mergan Naidoo, the GEMx Elective Coordinator at UKZN and Dr. Mukhinindi, a Family Medicine registrar at Wentworth Hospital. They gave us a detailed brief of the respective clinical areas, our schedule and objectives as well as the running of the South African health system.  This understanding would be crucial in our set activities for the next month.

We received a comprehensive logbook that included rotation sites for every week, meetings and bedside tutorials to participate in. On our list of tasks was the formulation and presentation of a Quality Improvement Project (QIP) on the topic of care of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients.  In an interesting and fun twist, we were also tasked with bingo cards with several objectives to be completed in different departments and programs of the hospital. This was organized in a bid to gain understanding on the importance of a multidisciplinary approach in the healthcare setting.  With plenty of tasks at hand and learning to do, we were ready to hit the ground running in all things Family Medicine for the next month!

The Clinical Experience

For a week each, we rotated in the Outpatient Department (OPD) & Procedure Rooms, the Acute Medical Ward & High Care Ward, the HIV Masibambisane clinics as well as the Accident and Emergency department. We assisted the interns in drawing blood, inserting intravenous lines, doing lumbar punctures, ascitic taps, incision and drainage, suturing and removal of sutures. As a result, we gained confidence in these essential clinical skills. We clerked patients with a variety of conditions and were assessed by the medical officers in our data gathering, diagnosis, therapy and counselling in several Mini-Clinical Evaluation Exercises (mini-CEX) that kept us on our toes. Indeed, we were sharpening our skillset all through.

In the medical wards, we attended two ward rounds each day, one with a Family Medicine physician and another with a specialist, Medical Officer or Registrar. During the ward rounds we would discuss the aspects of history, presentation, clinical exam, diagnosis and management of different patients. After the rounds we would assist the interns and nurses in procedures like ECG placement and interpretation, peak expiratory flow measurement as well as drawing blood. In addition to the highly beneficial teaching rounds, we had several individual and group tutorials by the Family Medicine Registrars on commonly-occurring conditions. At this point in time, we had been joined by a second group of elective students from Zimbabwe as well as the South African-Cuban exchange students. This made for very lively learning and discussions, with input on different countries’ clinical spectrum of illnesses.

Our participation in the HIV clinics and perhaps our favorite part of the clinical rotations was nothing short of enlightening. With more than thirty years of the HIV epidemic, despite no cure or effective vaccine, there have been major advances in its treatment. South Africa carries a large proportion of the global HIV burden, but with the availability of antiretroviral therapy, what was initially a fatal disease has been transformed to a manageable condition. Dr. R. Ryan, the experienced Medical Officer in charge of the clinics guided us through the initiation of HIV positive patients on antiretroviral therapy, the treatment of common opportunistic infections in these patients as well as the country’s approach to their care. In this light, we were also honored to meet Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, key player within the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) at the UKZN Main Campus, to discuss his progress in cutting-edge HIV research. In addition, we attended an informative lecture on the role of dolutegravir in antiretroviral therapy by Dr. Richard Lessels, infectious diseases specialist and group leader at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Pattern (KRISP) at UKZN.

For our fourth and last week at Wentworth, we were placed in the Accident and Emergency department.  It was here that we perfected our triaging skills and got to fully understand, respect and participate in the management of emergency cases. All through this period, we received excellent guidance from the nurses, interns, registrars and physicians who were always willing to pass down their knowledge and take us under their able wings. We remain indebted to them for their time and kindness.

Durban, the Gem by the Sea

Blessed with seemingly endless golden beaches, wonderful warm weather and a uniquely multicultural heritage, Durban offered us quite the amazing experience for our weekends away from the hospital.

The Young Christian Surfers’ Group

The Young Christian Surfers’ Group

With our hosts, and dear friends made along the course of our electives, we were able to happily make a dent in our to-do list of tourist fun!  We walked along the Golden Mile, a beautiful beachside promenade lined with restaurants, curio shops and the iconic Moses Mabhida stadium. Along this stretch is also the uShaka Marine World, an aquarium set on replicas of four shipwrecks. Getting up close to the marine life through the impressive underground viewing galleries was surreal!

A favourite was our visit to the oldest surviving garden in Africa – the Durban Botanic Garden, as well as the walk along the Umhlanga pier and nature reserve with medical interns from Wentworth. It was after this that we experienced one of the traditional Indian delicacies that Durban is famous for: Bunny Chow. Often referred to simply as a bunny, this a South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry. Warning: the levels of spice in this are not for the faint-hearted!

Our host was part of a volunteer group, the Young Christian Surfers, and we enjoyed spending some Sundays helping out with the great work they are doing in taking care of the less fortunate as well as teaching young children to surf along the town beach.

Lastly, one of our most enjoyable and uniquely Durban experiences was our ride on the Rickshaw tour-bus, a visitor’s lovely three-hour introduction to city centre and its surrounding suburbs. It was an excellent way to get insight into the city’s rich history and culture.


The uShaka Marine World        

The uShaka Marine World

The Ethiopian Experience

On our journey to and back from South Africa, we were fortunate enough to have nearly day-long layovers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – a country which is a cultural revelation in itself. We explored the National Museum, complete with the history of man’s origins, visited the Addis Ababa University and even had traditionally brewed coffee with injera and sirowat. Very special thanks go to Dr. Tehetena, family medicine physician at the Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital, for being a lovely host and companion during our day’s adventures.

Siyabonga… Thank you!

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who worked diligently to make this opportunity possible for us. The GEMx global and regional teams; Justin Seeling, Eunice Kamami, Faith Nawagi and Phionah Kinwa efficiently guided us through the application process, addressing all our concerns at each step of the journey.

A Day in Ethiopia with Dr. Tehetena

A Day in Ethiopia with Dr. Tehetena

The Kenyatta University management and Dean, School of Medicine ensured that our application process was smooth and travel logistics were well in order before our departure. We thank Dr. Titus Kahiga and Dr. Ongecha as our home GEMx team, who ensured that we gain the most out of the experience. They as well as Mr. Vincent Maganga and Ms. Dorothy Nyapil, through the Projects Office, supported us and assisted in the processing of required documents both for visa application and the exchange process. They served as a link between us and the UKZN team. For this, we are very grateful.

On the UKZN front, we thank Professor Mergan Naidoo, an excellent mentor and supervisor right from the planning phase to the end of our exchange. He and the warm student teams, interns, medical officers, registrars and departmental staff at Wentworth made our elective an exceptional learning experience.

From Nairobi, to Addis, to Durban and back, we appreciate all the wonderful individuals who went out of their way to make us feel at home. As we duly learnt, Ukuhamba kukubona. (Xhosa)

Travelling opens a window to the world.

GEMx Supports the 5th CICoM Student Competition in Mexico City

Filed under: From GEMx Staff, GEMx News, GEMx Sponsored Events

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City, Mexico to from February 3-7 for the 5th Edition of the of CICoM (Concurso Internacional de Conocimientos Médicos), taking place at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s (UNAM) Campus.  UNAM is a GEMx partner and has maintained a membership in the GEMx global network since the pilot of the program in 2013.  Through this partnership, the GEMx staff has forged long-standing relationships with leadership at UNAM, including Dr. Melissa M Islas Upegui, who oversees the International Program at the Faculty of Medicine, Movilidad Académica y Vinculación Interinstitucional (Mavi), and Dr. Irene Durante Montiel,  Secretary-General of the medical school.

GEMx was proud to be a sponsor for the fourth consecutive edition of the event, and it was an honor to witness the competition and observe the impressive display of medical knowledge demonstrated by student participants was hugely impressive.  As part of GEMx’s sponsorship, we were given the opportunity to present on GEMx global exchange network and other ECFMG | FAIMER service during the competition.

About CICoM

CICoM was launched in 2014, and has been taking place annually since its commencement (the quiz was canceled in 2017 due to the earthquake that hit Mexico City).  The event is student-run, with a self-elected organizing committee responsible for organizing and coordinating the competition.

This year, 28 teams participated from across Latin America, with six students per team, and a least one faculty member accompanying them to the Mexico City.

Quiz Format

The contest is divided into multiple rounds.  Each round includes the 15 questions, with 60 seconds provided to teams to huddle and decide on their answer to each question.  Teams then have five seconds to appeal to the jury, consisting of six medical professionals practicing in Mexico City. After the first round, the 16 top-scoring universities advance, with the remaining universities participating in the “Repechage”  or “consolation” bracket.

This tournament format continues over the next three days, ending in a head-to-head round competition between the remaining two teams.

The final standings of the 2020 CICoM competition were:

Fourth Place – University of Sonora, Hermosillo (Mexico)

Third Place  – Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (Mexico)

Second Place – Universidad del Rosario (Colombia)

First Place – CES University (Colombia)

Congratulations to all participants in this year’s CICoM event, and a special “felicitations” to the winning team from CES University in Medellín, Colombia (a GEMx partner!)

Feedback from Student Participants

Student Video Interviews with the Organizing Committee:


“I feel very happy, since it is a very positive experience that is full of learning, not just about Medicine. It is an opportunity to make new friends. ”Diana Marcela Lizate, University of Manizales,

“For my team and for me, it was a great pride to be here, representing our state and our faculty in this house of studies. We are very happy to have this experience. ” Oscar García Carbajal, Veracruzana University, Mexico

Cultural Activities in CICoM

In addition to the medical knowledge competition, quiz participants enjoyed various cultural activities, such as guided visits to the archaeological zone of Teotihuacán, to the Historic Center of Mexico City, and the School of Medicine building.   Students also had the opportunity to take in performances by UNAM’s  Mexican Folk Company, as well as the UNAM orchestra.

Interested in Participating in Future CICoM Events?

CICoM is open to all medical schools internationally.  If you are a medical student interested in participating in a future edition of the quiz, message CICoM through one of their social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Instagram) and a member of their organizing committee will be able to provide information and next steps in registering a team from your institution.

Veni, Vidi, Amavi (We Came, We Saw, We Loved)

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

By: Shin Loong Soong,  GEMx Student Ambassador from RCSI-UCD Malaysia Campus who participated in an internal medicine elective at Kasturba Medical College Manipal.

Located in Karnataka, India, Kasturba Medical College (KMC) Manipal is a constituent of Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Since its establishment by TMA Pai in 1953, KMC Manipal has held on to the mission of training competent, compassionate, and caring physicians by providing exceptional clinical teaching. With quality medical graduates practicing worldwide, along with having a college campus and a hospital here, as such Malaysians are no strangers to the name “Manipal”.


As part of the RUMC curriculum, an elective component was made mandatory for students prior to graduation, promoting medical knowledge exchange through learning from a system, settings and practices not familiar to the student however, what excited me the most, was the opportunity to travel and experience a cultural exchange. I can still remember attending a sharing session by the RUMC GEMx Ambassador, Dr Low Yik Chin back when I was a fresh third year student in RUMC. Being inspired by her experience, I decided to do my elective at KMC Manipal. As such, I submitted my application in February 2019 and was offered a place in KMC Manipal shortly after the submission of my application.


My elective journey in KMC Manipal began in December 2019, where I was attached to the Department of Internal Medicine, under the guidance of Dr Mukhayprana Prabhu, Professor of Medicine and Head of Unit 8 within the department. During the elective placement, I was given the opportunity to join the students in ward rounds and clinical bedside teachings by Dr Prabhu and the resident doctors. This gave me the opportunity to enhance my knowledge on appreciating clinical signs and symptoms as well as opening my eyes to rampant tropical diseases which were not commonly seen in Malaysia. Seeing rare diseases like these was a learning experience of a lifetime. Also beyond my expectations was the opportunity to write a case report on a rare facial fungal infection, working with Dr Prabhu and other authors, which we intend to submit for a journal publication in the future.


Physicians used to rely on their senses; seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling for physical anomalies to guide their diagnosis. Technological advancement has slowly superseded the role of a clinical examination in reaching a diagnosis, and although they are more sensitive and specific, they could also cause harm to patients, e.g. pain during blood taking and radiation exposure while taking an x-ray. However, this doesn’t demean the importance of these investigative tools. As such, the recipe of a good doctor would be having a strong foundation on the wisdom of modern medicine in appreciating clinical signs and symptoms and to apply evidence based practices effectively.

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced during my elective placement is the language barrier. Despite having the teaching and discussions conducted in English, most of the patients admitted were unable to converse in English, and with my inability to converse in Kannada, I was initially fearful that this compromised my learning, as clinical learning relies on communication with patients. However, the challenge was easily overcome with the help from my peers and the resident doctor, Dr Poonam Kamath, who have willingly took some of their valuable time to translate and explain the patients’ conditions to me.

With Malaysia being a big cultural melting pot that consists of three major race groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian), I was exposed to different cultures from a young age, and have always loved Indian cuisine. There are many things that I enjoy and like about India, the colourful sarees, the smell of incense and spices, the scenery comprising animals like cows and dogs roaming freely in the streets, the taste of delicious and authentic Indian cuisine, and the amazing Indian hospitality. As I travelled to India alone, I initially experienced some culture shocks and difficulty in adapting to life in India. But it is due to their amazing hospitality, and the kindness from a stranger who later become a friend, that I never felt lonely and my journey in India turned out to be amazing.


More than an opportunity for academic and clinical knowledge development, my elective journey in KMC Manipal, India has allowed me to expand my social networks and form many valuable friendships. Strong bonds were created even though it was just a short 4 week elective. Multiple life lessons have impacted me and lead me to count my blessings. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Prabhu, the resident doctors, and my fellow peers who made this elective journey a fruitful and memorable one. Some feelings are hard to express in words, so to conclude my elective journey in KMC Manipal, I would say “Veni, Vidi, Amavi”.


Elelective Experience in Managment of Paediatric Emergencies and Neonatal Resuscitation at Arthur Davison Childrens Hospital in Ndola, Zambia

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

Blog by Suubi Mariam, medical student from Mildmay Institute of Health Sciences, who has completed her elective in management of pediatrics emergencies and neonatal at Arthur Davison Children’s Hospital in Ndola, Zambia through GEMx.

On 20th July 2019, I set off from Entebbe, Uganda for Ndola, Zambia. Upon my arrival, I found Mr. Alex who showed me around, first to Arthur Davison high cost hospital on Lopiri street, then to Arthur Davison school of paediatrics and child health nursing before I went to Arthur Davison Childrens Hospital where I was going to be accommodated. He handed me over to the senior nursing students who I found in my room and were all glad to receive me. They all introduced themselves like and we became friends from that instant. It was an exhilarating moment for me that made all the anxiety and tension loosen which made me feel more comfortable.


I was given a brief history of when the hospital started and introduced to the staff who oriented me about the different departments. I joined fellow students to Arthur Davison school of pediatrics and child health nursing for the workshop that lasted for 4 days.

The workshop was about Emergency Triage, Assessment and Treatment(ETAT) and Neonatal Resuscitation.The major objectives of the workshop were to; Equip us with the uptodate knowledge about how to triage children and categorise them into those with emergency signs, priority signs and non urgent signs so that we are able to meet their needs as quick as possible and according the available resources. The ABCDE concept and how to intervene appropriately and proficiently. Appreciate the principles related to facilitating physiological transition at birth as a basis for understanding when to intervene.


My hospital experience at ADCH started on 6th August 2019. Ms. Mwango Berrice picked me up from the hostels and took me to the hospital where she handed me over to Dr. Kikonde a medical intern. There was always a hand over meeting chaired by a senior doctor. In this meeting, doctors post call gave a report of the number of patients managed overnight, discussed interesting case and the challenges faced for about 15 minutes, thereafter, one medical topic of choice was discussed by the doctor scheduled on the time table. This helped me to refresh and learn more from the Doctors.

I spent the second week in Muchinga where I practiced fluid calculation for dehydrated children and those with severe acute malnutrition. I got a chance to refresh on the feeding and general management of malnourished children under the kind guidance and supervision of Dr. Daka, Dr. Nyanta, Dr. Machona, Dr. Nonde and the Sisters.

For the third week, I was in Kafue ward which is majorly surgical and ICU. Here, I was with Dr. Ngose when he was reviewing post-operative patients with conditions such as fractures, hernias, severe burns, AVSD, frozen abdomen. I also saw patients with CKD and nephrotic syndrome in the ICU.


Unlike Uganda where a single meal comprises a variety of foods, here they prepare one type of food which is normally Nshima (maize mill) which is served for lunch and dinner and they don’t seem to be bothered about it. Nshima is served with any other type of sauce like beef, minced meat, chicken, tomato sauce, lepu, silver fish and others. However, the amount of served on the plate was shockingly small that I had to take water so that I don’t choke on the Nshima.

PEOPLE AND LANGUAGE.                                                                              

Zambians are very warm, receptive, generous and jovial people and they are aware of it. I was always received by infectious smiles wherever I went, from the airport to the local people, the students, at the hospital, the kitchen attendants, the Senior Medical Superintendent and even some of the patient attendants.

There are about 72 languages spoken in Zambia, but Bemba is the most commonly spoken. However, I could Identify a bit with Bemba because most of the words are like Luganda, Swahili and Runyankore hence to me it sounded like a mix of languages in one. On this note, I could perhaps pick a word or two when the doctors were clerking the patients and they never hesitated to interpret for me if I asked.


I was unaware that Zambia experiences “snowless” winter seasons. The winter season is usually between June and late July which is I usually very cold. I was greatly challenged by the weather because I packed light summer clothes only. All thanks to my friends Kafunya, Miriam and Sarah who helped me with some warm clothes until when I did some shopping and they always checked on me to ensure that I am okay.


My friends and I used to stroll around town for ice cream and shopping especially over the weekends. However, one Saturday very early in the morning, we set off for Kitwe with Miriam, Sarah, Kafunya, Eunice and Sandra for Mary’s Chilanga Mulilo, a famous traditional ceremony mainly and strictly organized by women where the bride’s family prepares all types of food and takes to the groom’s home as a sign of being welcome to the bride’s home. It was fun to witness how Nshiima was mingled by the bride as the aunt whispered words I never heard into the bride’s ear.

I will always be humbled and grateful to be a part of this great learning experience. I have achieved all my objectives from the training and hospital practicum. I appreciate the Global Educational Medical Exchange for the opportunity Ms. Faith Nawagi the African GEMx representative and Ms .Phiona Kinwa for the kind guidance throughout the process as far as documentation is concerned , my facilitators at the host school, Ms. Sibeso Kamwi, Mrs. Chitimbwa, Ms.Berrice Mwango, Ms.Chisenga and Ms. Michelle.

Thank you is not word enough to express my sincere gratitude to my school, Mildmay Institute of Health Sciences, Ms.Mudoola Janet the GEMx coordinator at my school and the team, my tutors for the support and facilitation. Lastly but not least I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Magezi for the mentorship and support. May the Lord bless you abundantly! NATOTELA LESA AMIPALE.


Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Sponsored Events, GEMx Student Reflections

Blog by Job Magare, medical student from University of Nairobi School of Medicine, who has completed his elective in general anatomic pathology at the university of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Science through GEMx.

It was just after a busy examination period that I found out that my application for an elective term in Rwanda had been accepted. Having never travelled to Rwanda, I didn’t know what to expect but I maintained an optimistic demeanor. This paid off and even exceeded my expectations. I arrived at the Kigali airport at around 0930 CAT and took a taxi to CHUK (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali), my working station for the next 4 weeks.


I was warmly welcomed from the first day, quickly sorted my accommodation and was taken on an elaborate tour of the entire hospital by Dr. Marie Claire Ndayisaba (Consultant Pathologist). The laboratory works round the clock but for residents we are required to be present during the week days from 7am to 5pm. I was mostly attached to the Histopathology department. On a normal day, residents are responsible for: grossing of surgical tissue specimens, performing FNAC, conducting slide review sessions under the guidance of a Consultant Pathologist for both cytology and histology cases, do weekly presentations on pre-selected topics in the department. Present cases at the hospital tumour board meetings every Friday of the week and attend to ward and accidents and emergency consults. All these duties we clearly elaborated in a monthly rota prepared by the Chief resident.


I learnt how to stain and interpret cytology slides using Diff Quik. Back at UON we routinely stain using H&E and PAP stains. I was also fortunate to go to the T.B unit and learn how to stain using Auramine stain. This even afforded me the opportunity to use fluorescent microscopy that I had not yet experienced before. During my elective term, we collectively came across two rare diagnoses (Sex cord tumor with annular tubules and Brain Hydatid cyst disease) that may end up as case reports in the foreseeable future. This, I feel will help me keep in contact with both my Rwandan and Tanzanian colleagues, laying ground for future collaborations in both scientific writing and case consultations. Other than CHUK, I got to visit the pathology laboratories in the University teaching Hospital of Butare (CHUB), King Faisal Hospital and Kanombe Military Hospital.


Every Friday afternoon, government employees are encouraged to engage in physical exercise. I got my weekly dose of physical exercise playing basketball at Cercle Spotify. I also visited the famous Kigali arena where there was an all-star basketball exhibition game to close the local basketball season. During the weekends, I spent most of my time touring the city under the guidance of my hosts. What I noticed is that Kigali is the true definition of a clean and safe city in Africa. I got the chance to try various foods Kigali had to offer but the Fish and skewered meat dishes were my favorite. My visit to the ethnographic museum in Butare also remains memorable.


Rwanda is a very enjoyable place to be. The people are very welcoming and endearing. Getting to learn about their culture and customs was also very exciting and helped me gel with my new-found community. Overall, I feel the elective term was very beneficial from both a professional and academic growth standpoint and I will recommend these exchanges to learn how pathology is practiced in other countries. I would like to thank GEMx-COPECSA for the wonderful opportunity they afforded me by fully sponsoring this elective term at CHUK. Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Annette Uwineza (my Host) who warmly welcomed me and ensured that I had a comfortable 4 weeks stay and the Chairperson, University of Nairobi, (Pathology department), Professor Angela Amayo, for approving of my elective term in Rwanda.


Gaining More knowledge in History Taking, Examination and Different Diagnostic Approaches Used in Obstetrics and Gynaecology: My Elective Experience at Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana Kumasi

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

New blog by Ssekindi Faizo, a final year student of medicine and surgery from Makerere university Kampala-Uganda.

I was graced with the opportunity to do my electives from Kwame Nkurumah University (KNUST) on merit after interviews. I was the only student from Makerere university to this university, however, other students went to Kenya, Rwanda. Thanks to GEMx which sponsored the four weeks exchange program from 6th June-8th July.


Dr. Isaac Ssinabulya booked for me a ticket to and from Ghana via Ethiopia airline, by then my passport and yellow fever card were ready, when I received my ticket, I was so excited because now I was sure I was to travel by plane for my first time. Traveling to Ghana is visa-free. Two cars filled with my friends escorted me to Entebbe international airport from Makerere University at mid-night. My flight was at 2:45 am from Entebbe, from Entebbe we went to Ethiopia and from Ethiopia, we got another plane to Accra-Ghana and from Accra, I got another plain to Kumasi then I got an uber to my hostel. I reached Kumasi at 6:20 pm mind you Ghana is 3 hours behind Ugandan time, meaning it was 9:20 pm in Uganda.


 When I arrived at the hostel, I called my Ugandan friend who studies from KNUST and he made life easy from me, he contacted the exchange officer at the facility. He led me to my room which was already organized. We had a lot of jazz with my Ugandan friend to brief me about the place. For accommodation, I paid at the end of my stay to the facility manager 25 cedis per day. Each room had a fan and refrigerator because the country is generally hot, my neighbours were also exchange program students from the USA and my roommate was from German also for the exchange program. 


The available places of food were restaurants around the hostel which had a variety of food and snacks, I didn’t get chance to try most of their foods because am not a fan of chili, most of the source had a lot of pepper which was so hot, and this was a limitation to my exploration. I tried banku and okra soup once, but it was also hot I dint give it a second try, most of the days I would have rice and chicken which cost 8 cedis for lunch and I would also eat the same for supper with some watermelon.


I can possibly say, Ghana has the friendliest people I have ever met, not that I haven’t met all of them, but it gave me that ill-feeling that I don’t usually act in the same way when other visiting international students come to Makerere, I mean, who stops and asks if you are lost and then after directs you, where you desired to go. The only challenge though was the language, Ghanaians speak a variety of local languages, mostly Twi and also their English was a little fast, lecturers who crack jokes in the local language ad I would just look at others laughing while not knowing why they were doing so.


Most of the evenings I used to go for evening walks around Kumasi walking a distance of over 5 km in any random direction where I saw a variety of local natives and businesses, at times I would meet very many people during market days and I would do window shopping asking for price sand converting to Ugandan shillings, some items where so cheap compared to Uganda and I would buy them, like the ones below

Some nights we would go to club as international students for karaoke where we would ask for songs of our choices and we would sing, I can’t forget the night I asked for a Ugandan some called “neera neera” by moze radio and the entire club was so excited to listen to music from Uganda, they asked me the meaning of the song and I told it meant “we do it again and again”

I also used to go to KFC for chicken with my friends because I found it a bit cheap and the place was so cool, the package I always used to buy was 21 cedis with 2 pieces of chicken, chips and a small soft drink, other packages were also available but at affordable prices.

I used to visit Baba Yara sports stadium whenever the Kumasi team was playing because am fun of soccer and my weekends would be so cool with Kotoko football club winning all the time. However, I dint visit recreational places like other international students including cape cost and national game parks because it wasn’t catered for in my budget.


Well if you are from Kampala and you are used to bodaboda guys, in Kumasi I dint see any, the commonest means of transport by university students was uber which would always be available at all times, this was a bit expensive for someone who is used to using bodaboda guys who rarely go beyond a dollar yet in Ghana the cheapest uber would be like 2.5 dollars. Taxis also existed and they were a bit cheap but so challenging to use because of not knowing the local language and the places.


Ghana has two seasons just like in Uganda; the rainy season and the dry season, by the time I reached Ghana it was a dry season, but the temperatures were so high compared to Uganda, for this reason, all rooms and places had fans and refrigerators plus air conditioners. I was informed that even during the rainy season it’s also too cold and someone needs a sweater or jumper all day including a heavy blanket, unlike the period I was there whereby even fans would work all night and no need of a blanket to cover yourself.


Gained more knowledge in history taking, examination and different diagnostic approaches used in obstetrics and gynaecology. Mothers may not present with obvious signs and symptoms of illnesses due to physiological changes occurring during pregnancy. This has helped me to know that no single symptom in a mother should be ignored because it may be the only symptom present for an undergoing illness however insignificant it may seem to be. Learnt about the different diseases affecting mothers in pregnancy in Ghana. Urinary tract infections and sexual transmitted being more prevalent, as opposed to Uganda where malaria in pregnancy being more common. Learnt the coordinated care of a mother from the time of conception. The mother is under the care of an obstetrician who sees her during ANC to child birth and follow-up during the PNC. This practice has improved the quality of life among mothers in kumasi as pregnancy related complications are diagnosed early and proper management is given. I improved on my communication skill with peers, doctors, nursing staff and consultants I improved on my clinical skills in assessing for the fitness of a mother for normal delivery. I got chance to experience medical practice in a better resourced setting.

In summary, it was such a great time and experience for me in Ghana, I again would like to thank MakCHS for having allowed me to go there and GEMx for the support, my supervisors, my tutors from the department of OBGYN for this wonderful moment and finally the people of Ghana for the hospitality, the love and support.

Understanding HIV in Harare: My Internal Medicine Elective at University of Zimbabwe

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

By Polibu Amos, a final year medical student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana. 

The period between 5th year and final year is always a time every medical student in my school looks forward to, as it the time for medical electives. So, I was excited when my school allowed me to apply for an elective through the GEMx program. With the help of my school coordinator Madam Charlotte, Ms. Faith (GEMx African representative), The applications for an elective in internal medicine at the University of Zimbabwe for me and my colleague went on smoothly. Once our applications were accepted Mrs. Gandara (electives coordinator, UZ) facilitated the rest of the process for us.

We left Ghana on Tuesday, 3rd of September 2019 at 9 pm, we had 2 stops at Nairobi and Lusaka and by 11 am the following day, we arrived at Harare. The weather was sunny but with a harmattan-like breeze. Thanks to Mrs. Gandara, a driver was already waiting for us at the airport. The driver Mr. Gift Tsikirayi, helped us a lot by taking us to our accommodation and all the places we needed to do our registration. It took us several days to get used to the cold weather in Harare, especially at night. We registered with the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) on Thursday and started the clinical work on Friday at the Parirenyatwa hospital.


My colleague and I were assigned to different wards and joined the medical students there. I noticed a couple of differences in the hospital and medical school system in Zimbabwe and Ghana. In Zimbabwe, a team is assigned to a ward and they see all kinds of medical cases as opposed to Ghana where the doctors are in teams but not assigned to a ward. I was introduced to the doctors and medical students in the ward and they all warmly received me and made me feel included. We had wards rounds every day, where we get to present cases and we used to have a tutorial session with the residents (registrars as they are called in Zimbabwe) after rounds. I made a lot of friends who made my rotation interesting, they also helped in translating what patients said in Shona (the local dialect) for me.

As a student who is yet to do my senior clerkship rotation in medicine, this elective gave an overview of everything I will be doing and more. On the daily ward rounds, I saw cases I hadn’t seen before. This elective has also sparked my interest in internal medicine especially HIV and its associated opportunistic infections. As we saw patients with HIV only a daily basis, I read so much about HIV and also had several discussions on the topic.

Our clinical rotation came to a halt after our second as all the doctors declared a nationwide strike after the leader of junior doctors got abducted . Unfortunately, for us the strike wasn’t called off even after he was found, hence we did no clinical work for the rest of our stay in Zimbabwe. Some of the doctors, however, organized a few tutorial sessions for us. I learned about their health system, their culture and the country in general from the students.



Socially, I made a lot of new friends from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Lesotho, and Sweden. We had a lot of fun together with other elective students from different countries. We visited the national art gallery where we saw a lot of great artwork. We were educated on who the artistes were and what inspired the paintings and artwork. We also attended monthly socializing event dubbed “hustlers’ market” where people display indigenous products for sale coupled with live performances. We visited the Mukuvisi woodlands where we had an amazing experience. We went on a horse safari and it was so exciting. I also ate the local dish sadza which is the staple food in Zimbabwe.


The major challenge we had in Harare is was getting cash from the banks and ATMs, other than that and the strike, we had a great experience in Harare. Don’t forget to get in touch with your embassy as Ms. Bernice from Ghana embassy made our stay wonderful, we left for Ghana on the 28th of September 2019.

In conclusion, I would like to thank GEMx for allowing me to have this experience. Special thanks to Ms. Faith (GEMx Africa), Mrs. Rachel Gandara, Madam Charlotte, doctors of ward C4 at the Parirenyatwa hospital and Ms. Bernice (Ghana embassy).

Journey To A Land Of A Thousands Hills And Unspeakable Beauty Rwanda!

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

New blog by Francis Zerd MD, resident in Anatomical Pathology, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Tanzania) who has complete his elective in Pathology at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences (Rwanada) through GEMx Electives.

It was a busy morning at our department, when an announcement was made in the departmental meeting about an elective opportunity that we could apply for. I was excited and as soon as the meeting ended I approached my senior and asked for more information. She explained very well what needed to be done, and when I saw Rwanda as one of the options for the elective, instantaneously my brain recalled all the astonishing tales of its beauty from people who have visited, without hesitation right away I started the application process and completed successfully.

Life went back to our normal busy schedules, and a few weeks later an email notification popped up in my phone, it was an email from GEMx that I have been accepted to do my elective in Rwanda. Excitement began, all preparations went smoothly with great support from my home academic staffs. On the evening of September 8th, my journey started at Julius Nyerere International Airport, Terminal 3, Dar es Salaam, with great customer care! I took RwandAir and could see the smiles and kindness in the air hostess faces and started feeling home as soon as I boarded the plane ready to depart to start my elective at University teaching Hospital of Kigali.

I spent an amazing 8 weeks at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, had a fantastic experience, both in terms of histopathology, the hospital community, the country and its people as a whole. Hopefully this post will give some insight into my elective, and why the experience was so beneficial.

The University teaching hospital of Kigali/CHUK is the largest hospital located in District of Nyarugenge at KN 4 Ave, Kigali City. It is also the biggest referral hospital of the country with a capacity of 519 beds. CHUK provides quality healthcare to the population, training, clinical research and technical support to district hospitals. 

The hospital was built in 1918 and in 1928, it worked as health center and upgraded to a hospital in 1965. From April 1994 to 1996, the CHK served as a health center, a district hospital and as a referral hospital as well. In 2000, with the enactment of law Nr. 41/2000 of 7/12/2000 on the establishment and organization of the University Teaching Hospital “CHUK”, the CHK became a public institution with legal personality known as “University Teaching Hospital of Kigali”

The pathology department at CHUK has been active since 2013, and it has 5 pathologists currently. The normal day at the department starts at 7.15am with a meeting mainly in Tuesdays and Thursdays followed by the day’s allocated duty. Each activity is pre planned in a monthly time table which includes pathologists, residents and laboratory scientists. The main activity for residents are grossing, fine needle aspiration clinics and reporting to pathologists slide findings, usually done using a multi headed microscope where most slide review sessions are done. 

As is customary, the residents at CHUK work on rotation in different hospitals with pathology services in Rwanda. They attend to each for a period of one to three months and there is other opportunity to attend different trainings. I was privileged to visit and work in some of the hospitals for at least a day and privileged to attend one of the trainings. University of Rwanda, Huye campus, Southern province with other GEMx resident from Kenya, Dr Job, Kacyiru hospital which forensic pathology is practiced, King Faisal Hospital, one of the largest referral and the first hospital in Rwanda, University of Rwanda, College of Sciences and Technology (CST) during Molecular Pathology (micro satellite instability and short tandem repeats analysis) training, a 3 days training provided by Promega, Rwanda Military Hospital and Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) department, where all molecular tests are done.

I had an excellent elective at CHUK and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who would like to get involved in a friendly, welcoming hospital in a developing country, where they will work hard but be well supported during their stay. In terms of a country for your elective, Rwanda is a great place where you will meet wonderfully friendly people and can do some exciting activities, with several must-do attractions.

In summary, I had a fantastic experience professionally and yet I also enjoyed immersing myself in the life and culture of the local area, leading to a thoroughly rewarding time.

I would like to thank GEMx-COPECSA for the wonderful opportunity and funding support for my visit and entire stay at CHUK, Ms Phionah for always providing guidance whenever needed, Dr Annette for being there whenever needed and making my stay very comfortable. Special thank the hospital staff especially the laboratory staff and fellow residents for their unspeakable cooperation they have showed me during my stay.

I would also like to thank MUHAS pathology department for giving me permission to attend this life changing opportunity and lastly I give my special thanks to my supervisor and mentor, Dr Edda Vuhahula for introducing me to this program, her encouragement and endless support whenever needed, may you all be overwhelmingly blessed.

Pediatric Nursing in the Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges, GEMx Student Reflections

New blog by Lubega Martin medical student form Makerere University College of Health Sciences (Uganda) who has completed his elective in Pediatric Emergency Medicine to Kamuzu College of Nursing (Malawi) through GEMx. 

In this modern digital world, it’s not rare that someone can abruptly begin smiling with their smartphone!!! That was the mood after I read an email notification from our international coordinator that my request to have a pediatric exchange experience at Kamuzu College of Nursing had been accepted. The next few weeks were filled with excitement and preparation to visit Malawi and get a feel of the pediatric nursing experience that side. Remember, Malawi is one of the African countries were most pediatric protocols like ETAT were developed, this too geared up the excitement. Surely my anticipation was high, wouldn’t wait to fly to and stay and have study experience in the warm heart of Africa. Unlike many who have their international exchange visits in the course of their training, partly triggered by the hunt for grades, our exchange visit was a month after we had finished our final university exams. All the learning was triggered by a passion for the field, not grades at all. This gave us a chance to learn and explore several things at our own pace.

The people of Malawi

Malawians call their country the warm heart of Africa and surely this one month was enough to testify this. The welcome from the airport and interaction all through the thirty days we spent on their land, just calls one to go back again and again. I come from one of the Bantu tribes in Uganda, Malawians are not different from the Bantu in Uganda. It was hard for many college students to realize that I was not a fellow Malawian, many who met me on compound or ward would rush to talk to me in their local language, we indeed resemble them!!! The historical Bantu migration is real!!! This also made it somehow easy for us to learn a few words in their Chichewa language since some words were like the words of some of our local languages in Uganda.

Learning experience

The one-month exchange period was to help us enhance clinical skills in the management of pediatric emergencies. As a prerequisite, we sought authorization from the Nurses and midwives council of Malawi. This required us to sit for interviews based on pediatric nursing only after which we were indexed and allowed to carry on our learning experience in the various pediatric wards at Kamuzu central hospital in Lilongwe.

Based on our objectives, we were attached to four wards: children’s’ OPD, children’s ward, Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and children’s high dependency unit. While at the hospital, we were taught and supervised by nursing instructors from KCN, ward in charges, fellow students, interns, and consultants. 

We successfully finished our four weeks of pediatric emergency experience in good health with multiple skills in pediatric emergency management, use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in management of a child with respiratory distress, application of ETAT protocols in the daily management of pediatric emergencies.

Accommodation and Meals 

We were accommodated within the college at the students’ hostels and we had most of our meals from a private supplier who comes at the college’s cafeteria. Although the meals are almost like those in Uganda, the way they are prepared and served is different and worth exploring.



We participated in the 40th anniversary of the college which took place on 12th August 2019 at the main campus in Lilongwe. The college was celebrating 40 years of service, caring and teaching the nursing profession in Malawi. It was such good timing!!!


It all got sweet when one of the Ugandan biomedical engineers and leaders of the Ugandan community in Malawi: Mrs. Lydia learned that a pair of Ugandan students were at the hospital for clinical experience. She invited us to her home where we met over twenty countrymen and women, had lunch and dinner, had a social warm-up, connected, shared contacts and many have inspired us to go back and practice from Malawi. 

How unfair it would be if we left Malawi without visiting the historical Lake Malawi, we spent one of our last Saturdays at Nkhotakota, one of the shores of Lake Malawi, about 200km west of Lilongwe. We participated in sports like football, volleyball, and netball with the college team as the versed a local team at the lakeshore.

Thank you, Makerere University, for this partnership with GEMx, thank you GEMx, thank you Kamuzu College of Nursing, thank you for the University of Malawi for this great opportunity. Malawi, I will soon come back.

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