On the 29th of March I will be off to Africa for a placement at St Francis’ Hospital, Katete, Zambia for the Medical Elective block. This 6 week period in medical training is designed to teach us about the issues influencing health all over the world and make us think about the processes affecting the health of the country we choose to visit. Whatever our future intentions, from researching new cures to being a family doctor, whether working in the UK or abroad, the issues that surface during this placement will influence our careers and future practice in one way or another.
Medical students are in a uniquely privileged position; we explore interpersonal and family relationships, witness life changing moments in people’s lives (be they positive or negative), meet people when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable, and ask patients questions about some of the most personal aspects of their lives – all without being able to benefit them in any way. We continue to do this as doctors, but once qualified, we have the ability to provide the patient with a return on the investment of trust in us. Though I am enjoying my time in medical school, preparing and laying the foundations to become a well-rounded, patient-centred physician, I have itchy feet to start making a difference. The elective period is one of the most anticipated periods of medical school, but also one that necessitates careful thought and consideration: medicine has many areas of need, stretching from research to education, sophisticated neurology to the basics of resuscitation. With a limited time of 6 weeks, I feel that I could learn the most, and indeed contribute the most, in a developing country.
The St Francis’ Hospital in Zambia is a 350 bed rural hospital that provides healthcare for the 200,000 people living in the Katete district, and accepts specialist referrals from the surrounding 1.5 million people living in the Eastern Province. Here, as in the case with many developing countries, there is a never ending need for fresh medical supplies, such as: digital thermometers, urine testing strips, pen torches, gloves (surgical and examination), digital blood pressure machines, face masks, caps and plastic aprons.
I plan to take an extra suitcase packed with medical supplies, and so I would be most grateful for any donations to this cause! A donation of just £3 will buy a digital thermometer or two pupil pen torches, £6 will buy one box of 100x examination gloves, £10 pounds buys a box of 100x urine testing strips and £13 for a box of 100x sterile surgical gloves.