Practicing Medicine in Tanzania

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ZINGA – TANZANIA – This summer, I traveled to Tanzania to spend six weeks working at The Children’s Hospital at Zinga. The rural village of Zinga is located on the Eastern coast of Tanzania, about an hour and a half drive north of Dar Es Salaam. I spent six weeks working alongside the clinical staff at the outpatient clinic, shadowing the physicians and assisting in patient-related procedures, as well as conducting various lab tests.

Although nearly all the interactions between the doctors and patients were in Swahili, I was able to work as a scribe, which meant translating the entire patient history to English while the patient is speaking. This not only helped to clarify my medical understanding of each patient visit, but also enabled me to learn some clinical Swahili. I honed my physical exam and medical interview skills, as well as assisted with ultrasounds and other minor procedures.

It has been enlightening to compare “general medicine” there to that in the U.S. I was surprised by the variety of cases seen here each day, ranging from afflictions such as diabetes and hypertension commonly seen in the U.S., to numerous cases of malaria, typhoid fever, parasitic infestations, sickle cell anemia, dental filings, and malnutrition.

Even more notable is the fact that one generalist and one pediatrician see all of these cases that would, in America, typically be referred to specialists for treatment. That these patients have the opportunity to be seen on premises, even with limited resources, begs the question of what elements of clinical practice are truly vital in providing comprehensive care. Despite the differences I have observed between The Children’s Hospital at Zinga and well-established healthcare facilities in the U.S., it has become increasingly apparent to me that the fundamental needs of all patients are very much the same. That is, to be treated with compassion, respect, and the reassurance that they are receiving the best care possible.

I am certain that International Health Partners is building a hospital that already has and will continue to raise the standard of care for Tanzania. I hope to one day have the opportunity to return when the clinic is admitting patients and contribute as a physician to this organization’s honorable mission.

 

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