Volume 95, Issue 3
Thursday, June 7, 2001
Med students bring aid to East Africa
While you're flipping burgers this summer or sitting behind a desk downtown, seven of your fellow Western students will be in Tanzania, practicing medicine in a rural village.
For two months this summer, MedOutreach, a student-run organization, will venture to Africa to learn about primary health care and international development through hands-on fieldwork.
Johanna Schaeffer, a third-year student from the school of dentistry is among the seven students going, along with another student from her faculty, four nursing students and one from medical school.
"If anything, this experience is going to enrich our lives," Schaeffer said, adding she was excited about being chosen to participate after a thorough application and interview process.
Along with medicine and infection control items, the group will also take items to leave behind, like disposable syringes.
"A lot of the focus is on mothers and children and that's where we can make a big impact," she said, explaining through education programs, the students plan on teaching the basics of maternal and child health care.
"It was worth it for the cultural experience, but also for getting exposure to kinds of diseases we'd never see back home, [including] malaria, certain fungal infections and even measles and mumps," said Laura Snell, a second-year medical student who went to Tanzania last year.
According to Francis Chan, a professor in Western's anatomy department, the size of each MedOutreach group has never gone beyond eight, due to the difficulty of raising funds.
"[However] people tend to be very generous with their donations," Chan said. Pharmaceutical companies also helped by donating much needed supplies, he said.
Although the students are sacrificing a summer job, both Chan and Snell agreed this experience is definitely worth it.
"Initially, if one has never gone to a developing country, it may be a real eye-opener," Chan said. "It is an experience – but not one of a tourist, because you're in the front line working."
Recognizing the challenge the group faces, Chan said the experience will do much to prepare students for the working world. "They will learn how to take care of themselves and that's really what going out into the world is all about," he said.
"It's not only the medical treatment – it's a different lifestyle experience
as you immerse your whole self into their culture. It's a very encompassing
experience," Snell said.
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