Passion to Practice: Nzeeke Herbert’s Path to a Transformative Elective Exchange
By: Nzeeke Herbert, fourth-year medical student from Kabale University School of Medicine, Uganda
Growing up, I used to admire health workers putting on white coats. I then started getting the passion for medicine seeing how the health workers were caring for the sick and especially whenever there would be an emergency with everyone running up and down in a bid to help. Watching my father and mother die before I achieved my passion was another painful moment for me, but this didn’t stop my hopes of pursuing a medical course.
I joined a clinical school for my diploma in clinical medicine and community health in 2002 to 2005. I developed a positive attitude of doing my best whenever I handled the sick/suffering without segregation. I had no hopes of joining the university for the degree because I was supposed to look after my siblings since I was the first-born child. However still with my passion for medicine, I didn’t lose hope and through Prayer God made a way in 2016 when I was finally admitted to Kabale University to pursue this noble course.
The GEMx program gave me another rare opportunity to have an experience in Kenya where I didn’t have any hopes of traveling during my undergraduate studies. It started with a simple announcement at the University notice board calling for students to apply and participate in the exchange program with a deadline. I thought it was not serious and kept busying myself until the deadline date when I finally submitted my application. To my surprise three of us, we were called to the office of the dean of the school of medicine where we were told that we were selected by the faculty among ten applications to participate in the GEMx program.
It was such a joy. I wondered how best I could handle this as to be one of the first people at my medical school and a pioneer of the program. However, I had to be with hope and wanted to experience how other countries carry out their training of medical students in their medical schools.
Safari to Kenya
We traveled by road from Kabale, Uganda to Nairobi Kenya via Busia border, a journey that took me twenty-one hours. This was the first time I had ever traveled such a long distance. But it was rather an adventurous journey as I viewed the beautiful scenery of Africa; the landscape, parks, different animals, and valleys provided such a good tourist view.
Acclimatizing to Kenya
I found that Kenyans were welcoming and friendly. Swahili was the main language of communication and initially, it was challenging but some locals tried English, which made me learn more Swahili so I would be able to communicate. Their main meal was “Ugali” (posho in the simplest terms) with greens (sukuma wiki). It was not easy to cope up with the diet as I was used to Matooke and Irish potatoes. I had to adjust to fit within the local dishes.
The Elective Begins!
At Kenyatta University the coordinator GEMx welcomed us and introduced us to the different head of departments including the dean School of Medicine. This made me feel at home. A time table was drawn that helped me go through the expected objectives smoothly. The teaching hospital-Kiambu level 5 Hospital in Kiambu county was located approximately 30Km away from the university. This called for waking up early morning to catch the bus that would transport students to and from the hospital daily. The University had a six-year degree program for medicine and surgery compared to our Ugandan program of five years.
In forensic medicine, I was able to attend a few lectures and five autopsies with lots of learning and getting expertise from the experienced government pathologists. The pathologists were such good people who made me learn when, why, and how to do an autopsy. I had the chance to visit the biggest government chemists’ laboratory where samples are taken for analysis concerning forensics and the law. This improved my knowledge in forensic medicine and skills in carrying out autopsies which will help me become a good medical officer in the future.
In mental health at Mathari Hospital, I gained skills in clerking mental cases and attended rehabilitation sessions in a private rehabilitation center for substance abuse clients at Blessed Talbot. This gave me great experience in understanding the relationship between drug addiction and mental health and the team approach in handling such clients.
The experience in surgery rotation was such an amazing one especially the radiological investigations in managing surgical cases for example; MRI, MRCP, CT scan in addition to other routine investigations were readily available within reach and patients would go for them when requested. The surgeons were such good people as they made me learn a lot with their good advice and teaching.
This was such an interesting experience as it contributed to my knowledge that will help me go through medical school smoothly and use it in the future during my practice so I can become a good professional medical worker with the relevant skills. On the social aspect, I made friends, interacted with many students and visited many malls around Nairobi and markets. It was very interesting staying in Nairobi. Would wish given another opportunity to go back. Traveled back Kabale-Uganda by road and had a safe journey. All my travels and welfare were fully facilitated by GEMx. LONG LIVE GEMx LONG LIVE KABALE UNIVERSITY.
Tags: Forensic Medicine, Kabale University School of Medicine, Kenya, Kenyatta University, Mental Health, Sugery, Uganda