This program provided me with many unique opportunities and an incredible experience overall. The people in Kenya were extremely kind and accepting, and the children absolutely stole my heart. Every day was filled with beautiful scenery and Kenyan cuisine that I still daydream about–including chipati. Visiting the local communities during the medical or hygiene clinics was a blessing to me even more than it was to them. Seeing the different living situations for the lives of all these joyous people showed me just how unimportant and unnecessary that material things are! I hope that I can bring this new perspective to the many future teams/schools/jobs that I will be a part of in the years to come. I certainly can’t wait to go back to Kenya when I am certified and skilled enough to make a medical impact at their hospitals and in the community! The Masai Mara safari was a once in a lifetime experience. It was incredible to see these majestic animals in their domain! Our driver that we were placed with was humorous, kind, and got us some incredible shots. I will never forget this adventure!
My internship with International Medical Aid allowed me to be a part of unique cultural situations that can only be experienced in Africa, exposed me to medical conditions that are rare in the Unites States, and taught me more about myself in one month than I thought possible. I now see the world through a different perspective in various situations and am better off for it. My experience, combined with my newfound knowledge, will also enhance my ability to inspire teams I am a part of in the future, and allow me to convey ideas or concerns sparked by this experience abroad.
Healthcare delivery in Kenya is different from the United States’ hospitals in countless ways. The most pronounced differences that I noticed is the lack of technology, materials, and medicine/anesthesia. Due to this reality, I witnessed many doctors and nurses forced to improvise. In one case located in a minor theatre, the nurse could not find a scalpel with a handle, so the doctor had to use a clamp to hold onto the blade for the entire procedure. Also, due to the lack of available drugs, all mothers in the Labor and Delivery ward had zero access to pain killers of any kind. Another difference that took me a while to get used to is the Kenyan staff’s sense of urgency. For instance, a woman began seizing in the ER, and I watched as nurses stood by, looking unconcerned, until one nurse finally took some action several minutes later. In the states, the patient would have been monitored with multiple machines, alarms would have been going off, and a team of providers would have probably responded immediately. But I really admired the physicians and the staff I was fortunate enough to observe, and I hope someday I will be able to come back as a physician and help at Coast Provincial General Hospital physically and financially.
Along with the many differences in healthcare, Kenya’s culture and religious status made an impact on me as well. The first things I noticed when I entered the city of Mombasa were the people—with their heavy accents, fluent Swahili, and the many hijabs being worn by citizens. My first week in the hospital proved to be quite a difficult learning environment strictly because I could not understand what the doctors were explaining to me or the other interns. Even though they were speaking English, the accent took some getting use to. However, once I adjusted to the native peoples’ accents, I learned that the nurses and doctors were extremely willing to teach! Before my visit to Kenya, I had not been exposed to many religions, and I did not know much about Muslims. While in the beautiful country of Kenya, my eyes were opened to this religion; my roommate was even Muslim! What I learned is that they are just normal people with all different personalities, they just have some different beliefs than I do. I think I subconsciously stereotyped them before this trip just because I have not been around many Muslims and I was slightly ignorant of their faith. This is just one more way that my experience in Kenya opened my eyes to the fact there is so much unique and beautiful in this world.
All of the exposure and close up observation inside the Kenya healthcare system really confirmed I want to pursue a career in medicine. I witnessed new lives being brought into the world in the Labor and Delivery ward, and also observed a man pass away right before my eyes in the Casualty ward due to impact injuries. In these moments, I realized that I wanted to be a part of the process, whether it be life or death. I understand that I will encounter many gruesome and heartbreaking things by joining the medical world, but it’s going to be the smiles and the joy of patients and their families that I am able to truly help that will make everything worth the struggles and effort. It would be my privilege to be a part of something that deeply affects so many peoples’ lives, and I sincerely hope I can have such a positive impact.