Many months ago, before arriving in Mombasa, Kenya, I made both the best and hardest decision of my entire life. The internship through International Medical Aid was the perfect fit and one of the first steps along my journey of becoming a surgeon. I made the choice to independently coordinate, plan and pay for this experience myself. I clocked in extra hours at my work and acquired various side jobs to save enough money to be comfortable with each amount. Not only was I still in Massachusetts, but the internship was already teaching me responsibility and a sense of maturity that I will forever be grateful for.
Once I arrived in Mombasa, the reception and the atmosphere of the program was something I have never experienced before. Right from the first minutes of arriving in Africa, Javan, who I became quite close with, had one of the best personalities I have ever seen; and from that moment on, I knew that I was meant to be there. As for the program directors, Phares and Bella, not enough great things can be said for both individuals. Their warm welcome and tireless work to accommodate all interns both in the hospital and outside the hospital was absolutely amazing.
With my time in the hospital I was able to shadow and learn from many amazing doctors that work at Coast General Provincial Hospital. It was amazing to see the environment in which these professionals were able to work and the attitudes they carried to work; knowing very well that the environment was less than standard. The amazing part in which I learned the most can be categorized into one word: Innovation. To me, memorizing information is the easy part. Anyone is able to memorize a ton of words and definitions, whether it be medicine, music, or even a language. However, where I was able to learn the most is from how innovative each doctor was. The resources were quite limited in the hospital, so each case and each procedure had to be done in a way that was the most effective with what they had. The image that sticks in my mind the most is how the doctors established an IV line. In the United States, there are special rubber bands to help express a vein. However, from the innovation of the doctors in Kenya, a simple rubber glove wrapped around the arm did just as well. Little snapshots and moments like this is where I learned the most throughout my time in Kenya. Yes, the knowledge I gathered through research on each case was amazing, but being able to see how these doctors worked, and what they were able to utilize for each case and scenario is something I will be able to take with me through life. To learn the ability to scan what you have and think of more than one way to use an item is something that will not only help me in medicine, whether surgery or an urgent case, but will also help me in everyday life.
The experiences I have learned from outside of the hospital are also once in a lifetime. Through the various orphanages the program visited and also the many medical clinics that were performed, the importance of life was very much, re-learned. In the United States, many things are taken for granted and often overlooked. Simple items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste that were given out, are almost a hassle to many Americans. However, in Mombasa, these two items are so appreciated and could definitely change the lives of many. That is why I believe that the most important things in life were truly re-learned during this internship. The aspects of family and togetherness, and to be grateful for what we have stretches beyond just Africa, but can be applied to our everyday lives as well. Also outside of the hospital, it was amazing to see the attitudes of all the children. Each child has been thrown into a life that may seem less fortunate to many, but for them it is their everyday reality. They make the most of their situation and truly go through life with amazing attitudes. It was amazing to learn through these children, that life really is what we make it. Not only did the children help me learn more about life but it also strengthened my urge to pursue medicine. Being interested in pediatrics, it was gratifying to be able to help even if it was by the smallest gestures. Working with the children and seeing their attitudes has most definitely pushed me into a field where I can continue to help children.
Throughout my whole time in Kenya, it was truly a life changing experience. From the directors, to the doctors, to the everyday locals I saw on the street, I cannot say enough great things. This experience has taught me more about myself and my path towards my career in medicine. I will be able to use both this innovation and new aspects on life to my advantage as medical school become very competitive. Furthermore, in my years, I will be able to utilize these techniques and experiences in my practice. I have always had a passion for medicine, however, the International Medical Aid only strengthened my decision to pursue medicine. I will be forever grateful for the experience.