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GEMx Elective Reflections – Student Network Organization (SNO) Exchange at University of Tunis El Manar (Tunisia)

Filed under: GEMx Sponsored Events, GEMx Student Reflections

GEMx has had the pleasure of not only extending travel grants to students going on GEMx system elective exchanges but has been an active supporter of  student developed and led competitions and exchanges. We have aided CiCoM and IQMU, and more recently supported the Student Network Organization of The Network –TUFH to implement the 2017 pilot, GEMx-SNO-International Exchange Internship, which occurred in conjunction with the World Summit on Social Accountability Conference in Tunisia   

GEMx provided funds for Alejandro Avelino Bonilla of Juan N. Corpas University (Colombia)  and Vishnupriya Vijayalekshmi  of Kerala University of Health Sciences (India), two SNO member students, to cover their roundtrip airfare to Tunisia, accommodation fees and daily budgeted meal allowances while they undertook their internship experience at University of Tunis al Manar Faculty of Medicine. ECFMG and its GEMx program appreciated the opportunity to partner with SNO in this pilot and is honored  to share their experience with all of you here!

Post by Vishnupriya Vijayalekshmi, Medical Student at Kerala University of Health Sciences (India) who completed a GEMx Elective at University of Tunis El Manar (Tunisia)

EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE:

Vishnu in front of Social Accountability Sign

Pre-departure:

As a medical student,it was my dream to go for an exchange program and to experience  the  culture and to learn about the health care system in a different country.From my high school days,Tunisia has always fascinated me with its diversified culture and tradition.I was really excited when I received the mail,mentioning  that I have been selected for the exchange,that too in the University of Tunis El Manar.But the initial excitement later became confusion and sadness when I had some unexpected trouble with the visa.Till the last moment.l  was not sure if I will be able make to it.But finally,everything ended up well and I could attend the World Summit on Social Accountability and fulfill my long cherished dream of an exchange program.

Accomodation and briefing about internship:

The essence of an internship program is team work.I was quite sad when I came to know that the other 2 selected winners couldn’t make it to the exchange.But  finally,it was my pleasure to have Alejandro from Juan.N. Corpas University,Colombia as my companion .Though we have known each other for the past one year,the internship was the beginning of a friendship for a life time and a couple of beautiful memories.

The day we reached Tunis,the acivity co-ordinator,Chiheb gave us a warm welcome and took us to the apartment arranged for us at Manza Zanc.Though  it was distant from the university,the apartment was really nice and we were comfortable.The  only little problem,was the communication  with the owner,who speaks only French and Arabic.

The next day,we were taken to the Hospital La rabta,department of Infectious and Communicable diseases.As I hail from Kerala,a state in the southern part of lndia,where infectious and communicable diseases are quite prevalent,I was really curious to learn about the cases here , make out the similarities and differences and learn the treatment modalities.

After a quick and brief introductory session,we joined the case presentation session in the morning.Though  it was in French,the interns (Aziz and Ousama) did a great job translating it to English and making us feel comfortable.After  the session,we were given briefing about the internship timing and the activities we were supposed to do in the department.

Clinics:

Clinics started with the case presentations  in the morning which were very informative.lnfact,the difference in the spectrum of infectious disease as compared   the Indian scenario made it really interesting.After  the session,we joined for rounds,where the faculty ,residents ,interns and externs discussed about the cases ,in between questions were asked and the professors clarified our doubts.There  were 2 floors -one for the male and the other for the female patients.In  spite of the busy work,they managed to teach us about the different treatment regimens and we did clinical examination as well.The students(externs)were also really helpful.We also had the opportunity to join the consultant in the out patient department .We also made a point to read about the cases we saw at the hospital,once we were back in the apartment.A fact which deserves special mention is that,even though language was a barrier, the hospital staff and the patients were very friendly and we felt like being in our home country,in our own hospital and that made us really comfortable.

X ray image

An interesting case of ‘cannon ball metastases’, in a 54 year old gentleman

Afternoon session :

In the afternoon session,there were seminars and case discussions.But  since everything was in French,we attend a few sessions and then decided to utilize the time to explore the beauty of Tunis and savour the diversified Tunisian cuisines.In spite of the busy schedule,our Tunisian friends spared their time  and made sure that we visited the historical places in Tunis ,and enjoyed the traditional Tunisian dishes.As someone who is allergic to egg,I was worried regarding the food,but I was really happy that my friends  were all very understanding  and took care of it very well and never made me feel that I am all alone in a foreign country.

Altogether,the exchange program has been the best thing ever happened in my life.  lt  was a great opportunity to learn,to observe and explore,but above all it was a wonderful chance to make friendship which would last for a lifetime and take back a bunch of indelible memories.Not  even a single moment,we felt that we were far way from India and Colombia and were in a different country in a different continent./ had to leave early,and I was literally in tears when I said bye to Alejandro and left him alone ,as in those 2 weeks,we had really become best friends.

Its hard to bid adieu to people and places which gave us so much to remember.The  country,the people,the food ,had already taken away a piece of my heart and saying bye to my friends who gifted me the best few days of my life was so hard and I tried my best to hold back the emotion and promise them that I will come back to Tunis ... ...….......

LESSONS LEARNED:

As someone who is really interested in medicine,the  first hand experience  in the department of infectious and communicable diseases,strengthened my passion for the subject and has inspired me to be a good clinician and dedicate myself for the service of the community.  Even  though,there is no similarity at all between the community in Tunis and lndia, l could find similarities in the patient care and the treatment practices  and the differences which I could make out in the treatment regimens and the diagnostic approach of the cases can be disseminated among my community and shared with the medical professionals and it can open up the door for future advancement  in the arena of patient care.  
Above all, l learned that in spite of the dissimilarities,the essence of medical profession,is team work,sharing of knowledge and having an attitude of empathy and concern for the patients and as a future health care provider, I have to develop all these qualities and be the flag bearer for the betterment of the society.

POTENTIAL RESEARCH PROJECT IDEAS:

Antibiotic resistance is an emerging problem in the global scenario.Different studies have been conducted on this at  regional and international levels,but SNO has the planned to conduct a study on this ,with student community as active participants.  The spectrum of antibiotic resistance in different countries will be assessed and a meta analysis will be made at globallevei.  As the first step,it has been discussed in an interactive session with the students at the faculty of medicine,of the University of Tunis El Manar and the study will be the prime initiative of the SNO team 2017.

FUTURE PROSPECTS:

Getting inspiration from this,I thought about the possibility of creating a platform for an exchange program and received the support from the Emergency Medicine department of Malankara Orthodox Syrian

Church Medical College,Kerala,lndia which is in partnership  with the Indo-US Health & Medicine Collaborative.The department is really interested to receive students from around the world and give them first hand experience  in trauma care.The outline for a 3 week training programme,dividing trauma care into 3 phases: pre -hospital,in-hospital and post-hospital  care is in process and will be sent soon for approval from the Kerala University of Health Sciences. The SNO Team 2017 is looking forward to work on this,with the continued support and encouragement from GEMx  and believe that just like the amazing experience we had in Tunis, this would widen the horizon the students and will be an asset in their career as the future health professionals.

” From the deeper recess of my heart,I express my sincere gratitude to GEMx and SNO for giving me this wonderful opportunity”

 

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