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My GEMx Elective Added Value to My Medical Career

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges GEMx Student Reflections

Stephen Odiwuor

Post by Stephen Odiwuor, a medical student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya [MEPI]

I was born around the mid-90s as a son to John Ochieng and Janet Ochieng at home in the middle of the night, with the assistance of a traditional midwife as the only complementary and alternative medicine provider on standby at that critical hour of my birth. My name, Odiwuor, means born at midnight.  I thank God that neither my mother nor I developed perinatal and post-natal complications because had my mother experienced any obstetrics complications, there would be either no ambulance or vehicle to rush us to the nearest health facility except for an old, poorly maintained wheelbarrow that could be easily accessed from the nearest neighbor.

This meant that I had to catch up with the immunizations the vaccines that I should have received at birth, at 6 weeks, at 10 weeks and at 14 weeks later on in the course of my infancy period. In the course of my neonatal period, my mother reports that she developed breast disease, which, after literature review and medical knowledge, I concluded could be either mastitis or breast abscess. I then had to be shifted from exclusive breastfeeding to completely cow milk and that was the end of me with breastfeeding at that tender age before the recommended six months period had elapsed. My parents could not afford the infant formula milk because we were wallowing in the mud and mire of poverty.

At the Zimbabwe Medical Students’ Association annual general meeting (AGM)

In our village, I had to put up with a life that meant learning how to live with malnutrition and, occasionally acute malnutrition and severe malaria due to lack of untreated mosquito nets. My passion to pursue a bachelors in medicine and  a bachelors in surgery course is being driven by these health concerns that I had to survive right from my perinatal period, the immunizations I did not receive according to schedule, the exclusive breastfeeding that I did not get a chance to enjoy, the malnutrition I suffered among other health risks that I faced.  I, therefore, acknowledge the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) for their Global Educational Exchange in Medicine and the health professions (GEMx) that sponsored my electives at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Parirenyatwa Hospital, that would help me realize my dream of giving back to the community as a doctor by addressing the health challenges that I faced.

It was in early 2017 as I was going about my normal academic obligations at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) school of medicine as a fourth-year bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBChB) student when, a bachelor of pharmacy student, whose lecturer is Dr. Karara, the JKUAT GEMx Coordinator, sent me a link about GEMx electives. It was my first time to hear about GEMx so I did not take it with a lot of seriousness that it deserved. After a period of contemplation, I decided to give it a trial. I opened a student account on the website and requested Dr. Karara to confirm my details and accept me in the system since she is the JKUAT GEMx Coordinator which, she did. I then proceeded to start my applications for elective. I applied to Kwame Nkrumah University of Ghana, the University of KwaZulu Natal and the University of Zimbabwe. My electives would be in August and September 2018. University of Zimbabwe College of health sciences accepted my applications after uploading all the requirements for the elective on the system and submitting my applications.

At the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ)

I arrived in Zimbabwe on 20th of August 2018 at around midday and went straight to the University of Zimbabwe College of health sciences. To my amazement, the elective department had been waiting for me. After a few minutes of engagement and introduction, I was taken to the building at which I would be hosted for the 42-day period that I would be at Parirenyatwa Hospital for my elective. The awesome reception, the transport around the city and the orientation that I received from the elective department on the first day are among the many things I cannot fail to highlight in bold when talking about my elective experience. I did my clinical elective rotation in internal medicine. Among the things I learned were: The good attitude of the consultants towards both students and patients, the awesome reception by the nursing staff, the interactive sessions we had with the junior registered medical officers, the healthy discussions we had with the final year MBChB students, the vast medical knowledge that I gained during ward rounds and enjoyed the beautiful culture of the Shona community. Generally, it was such a life-changing experience for me. Moreover, I was also able to attend the Zimbabwe Medical Students’ Association (ZiMSA) annual general meeting and Dinner and the Family medicine conference at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences, Gellfand hall.

GEMx sponsored everything during my elective period. GEMx sponsored my accommodation, my upkeep, my flights to and from Zimbabwe and all other expenses. Special thanks to Mrs. Faith Nawagi, the GEMx Africa Coordinator for the constant counsel and help that she provided for me at every stage of my application, Mrs. Chuma Vunganayi, the elective coordinator at University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences and Dr. Monica Karara, the GEMx JKUAT coordinator. I also want to acknowledge and appreciate Dr. Reuben W. Thuo, the Dean school of medicine (SoMED) JKUAT, for the recommendation letters and the support he accorded me towards the application for my elective attachment.

Thank you GEMx, you have added a lot of value to my medical career.

 

 

 

 

Growing as an Individual

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Rumbidzai Mupfuti, MBChB student at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences taking an elective exchange to University of Kwazulu-Natal School of Nursing and Public Health.

My name is Rumbidzai Mupfuti, I’m a 23-year-old lady, currently in my final year doing MBChB at the University of Zimbabwe. Like most people, during my 4th year, I was super excited about participating in an elective but to be honest my excitement was mostly to do with the hype of getting to leave the country and going for a tourist adventure. At my medical school, we always had elective day sometime in April and medical students would share their different destinations and their encounters. When I started my 4th year, I had all sorts of plans to go do my elective overseas because I had always dreamt of doing my elective in a first world country. Finally, it was my turn to have an amazing experience I’d always thought about.

In January of 2017, I started applying to many universities abroad and talked to my predecessors on how I could approach. I had already made all my budgets for the various destinations I hoped for and had started looking for sponsorships. With all the enthusiasm I had, sadly it was now June and still, I was far away from landing any of my dream destinations.

It was just one day, as I was strolling with a friend and she mentioned GEMx…to be honest I had just heard of it briefly, as our faculty office was encouraging people to apply but I never put it to mind since I didn’t have much knowledge about it. So my friend, Tinashe, shared a little bit more about GEMx and I remember going home that day with so many questions about, why I wanted to go for an elective and what my expectations were in relation with my future goals within the medical fraternity.

GEMx was a fairly new thing at my medical school; it had been running for a few years. However, going through the GEMx website I realized how this experience would make me grow as an individual and give me an opportunity to learn more about the health care in surrounding nations, and there was no better time than NOW!

Looking back, I’m grateful I had that conversation because it gave me a different view and bigger picture towards elective attachment. It was as if I had a whole new view…..yes my dream was to do my elective overseas but I still failed to answer the why and how it would help me as a health practitioner and my goal. I realized that I’m very passionate about Global Health particularly in Africa as a whole…. so to cut the long story short, my heart was here, home in Africa.

So given the few months that were left I pursued my GEMx application, and fortunately I was selected as part of the 3 students from my medical school. I was excited and expectant to be visiting our neighbors, South Africa in the beautiful city of Durban.

Travel

We traveled from Harare to Durban by air.  It was a fairly short journey approximately 4 hours and connected in Johannesburg. Upon our arrival in Durban, it was one of the best experiences. If I was asked to describe Durban in a few words I would say, “CULTURAL EXPLOSION!!!” A place which is multi-racial with so much energy and a warm breeze climate. We were welcomed with love, with a lovely lady, Viv who we stayed with for the whole 4 weeks in the lovely neighborhood of Wentworth. With all the love she showed us, this became a second home for us.

Rue with her friends

Hospital Experience

We were nervous about our first day of elective at Wentworth Hospital. All sorts of questions were running through our heads: where we would fit in or even adjust? I remember our first day, we got lost initially but eventually found our way and we were welcomed by our coordinator, Dr. Naidoo. He was the head of Family Medicine at the hospital and he guided us through step by step concerning our 4 weeks attachment in Family Medicine where we got to rotate through Accident and Emergency, Medical ward, Chronic and Acute OPD and the HIV clinic. We had such an amazing team at Wentworth Hospital, from the doctors, nurses, and staff. They treated us like fellow colleagues.

As I said earlier, Durban is a multiracial city and served as an educational time. It was great meeting and learning from different people’s clinical experience and the fact that despite the different backgrounds they all worked as one unit towards providing the best medical care they could give to their community. This gave me a whole different view, as I noticed that we share the same disease burden i.e HIV and its associated infections and non-communicable diseases. This made me appreciate and understand that the different disease burdens and health resource challenges we encounter in my nation go beyond our borders and the first is ours together and through interactions like these and even at a bigger scale can help stop the fight against the various disease burdens in Africa. I also noted a lot of similarities in the health protocols and the differences motivated me and gave me ideas that maybe one day would love to see being implemented back in my home country.

During our 4 week attachment, we got an opportunity to do a Quality Improvement Project on Primary prevention of chronic illnesses. I got to appreciate the importance of teamwork, as it gave us an opportunity to interact with different staff of the hospital and patients giving us insight on the importance of both health practitioners and patients in our efforts as a whole continent to improve our health in Africa as a whole. Lastly, we got an opportunity to visit a government tertiary(specialist) hospital in Durban, Albert Nkosi Hospital. It was an unforgettable experience, I appreciated how people were able to access specialist care equally regardless of different economic background. This moved me, and I thought this was a positive step towards achieving Global Health Access to Africa as a whole. I can go on and on but words can never fully describe how this experience changed my view towards health and motivation towards my career goals…Not forgetting the fun bit of Durban in conclusion, we couldn’t have missed that too

Out and About

So Durban is a tourist city with so much more to show. I can say we got a glimpse of so much great stuff there is to see in Durban…the “CULTURAL EXPLOSION” makes Durban a city full of life and love!!! We got an opportunity to tour around the city Centre and got to know a bit of history about how the city came about. Not forgetting the amazing experience at Ushaka Marine World, we got an opportunity to see one of the largest aquarium, had dolphin shows and a whole lot of activities. we also toured to Moses Madhiba Stadium were also got a glimpse of the huge stadium. We also to see a glimpse of the huge malls, the Pavilion and Gateway Malls and last but not least, because of the vast Indian Ocean, we had unlimited opportunities to swim through the warm ocean currents.

Dolphin show


Looking back, I never imagined that I would have done my attachment in South Africa but now reflecting upon my journey towards SA, I’m grateful for the opportunity I got to do my elective there. In summary, this was a priceless experience with a whole full package and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity GEMx gave us to learn and develop our leadership skills as future doctors towards the effort of building healthy communities.

Rumbidzai, Zimbabwe

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