On March 8, 2017 Sagam Community Hospital (SCH) sat down with Uzima University (Uzima) medical students to discuss their personal aspirations and to learn more about their experience here at SCH. Located in Kisumu, Kenya Uzima is a constituent College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa –CUEA, and the institution specializes in teaching and research of medical and biomedical courses. Partnership with Uzima was made possible with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that established a joint collaboration between the two institutions to mutually offer attachments/placements for Uzima medical students at SCH last year on June 28, 2016. The partnership continues to support SCH’s mission towards the provision of affordable and accessible healthcare to the surrounding community.
These fifth year medical students participate in medical rounds at SCH on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The students are currently on their fifth visiting week at SCH and are due to finish their last week at SCH next week before another group of students from Uzumi begin their six weeks of medical rounds at SCH. We sat down with Hezron Omondi, Collins Makana, Davine Onyango, Bernadette Achieng, and Bridget Mutio Nzau. All these medical students had wonderful stories to share and we wish them luck as they continue with medical school and their future endeavors. We hope you enjoy their stories.
What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?
Collins: My journey to pursing medicine is a two-story journey. Growing up I was always intrigued by the medical terminology doctors would use and write when attending to sick patients. To me it was like speaking a different language and I was intrigued by it, wanted to learn, and be part of it. The second part of my story involved my father. Coming from a rural setting, my father was known around the village for having access to a vehicle. When community members fell ill, my dad would be the one to transport them to the hospital. For these reasons, developed an urge to study medicine.
Davine: As a child, my parents would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up and I would tell them I wanted to be a doctor. In my eyes, being a doctor was a position of high value and prestige based on what society tells us. It’s something I’ve pursued since I was young. Now, I am here as a fifth year medical student.
Bernadette: To me, being a doctor was something that never crossed my mind. Even after finishing high school (secondary school). I had no interest in becoming a doctor. Since I was young, I always wanted to be an engineer. I initially applied to be an engineer, and one day my father challenged me. He told me, “If you think you can be an engineer, why don’t you be a doctor”? Then I thought, “If you believe in me, then I can do it”! So I took it as a challenge and decided to pursue medicine. So far the journey is going well, and it’s a decision I don’t regret.
Bridget: Medicine was something that I didn’t think I would pursue. I’ve always loved business and I still do. For me, medicine is a solid foundation of beginning my life journey. I hope to pursue an administrative/business career within medicine. The journey has been hard in terms of academics, but it is a sacrifice I’m grateful to be a part of.
Hezron: I never wanted to do medicine. As a child, my true passion in life was mathematics and I wanted to pursue a career in financial mathematics. As matter of fact, I was offered the opportunity to study financial mathematics. The principal reason I became involved in medicine is because I participated in clinical rotations in the past. Then, in 1998, I lost three members of my family: my brother, father and sister. They all died in a span of three days, one after the other as a result of medical negligence. I decided to pursue a career in medicine to bring a compassionate side to medicine.
In your time in Medical School what are some challenges/barriers you have faced and how have you been able to overcome these challenges/barriers?
Collins: Training as a medical student is expensive. In the past Kenya had a select few medical schools. It’s not until recently where we see more medical schools are beginning to appear in Kenya. Studying medicine also requires a lot of sacrifice. Socially, you find yourself detached from your friends due to studies. Most of the time, I’m either in class or I’m in the hospital. In the evenings, I find myself working on assignments. On the weekends, I have to prepare myself for the week and run errands and complete house chores before the week begins again.
Bridget: I have to agree that medicine is expensive and getting sponsors is difficult.
Life becomes expensive to sustain yourself and to buy books. You also spend a lot of time reading. Along with reading, you lose a lot of your social life and your friendship circle becomes small and become close to your classmates.
Davine: Going off of Bridget’s comments, a lot of people feel intimidated by medical students. Thus, you find yourself mostly socializing with your classmates and close family members and relatives.
Hezron: One of my biggest challenges was pursuing medical school after already doing clinical medicine. During my time working as a Clinical Officer, people depended on me. Going back to school to study medicine was hard for them to comprehend. Another challenge is setting the standard for future students in our medical school. Our school is relatively new and we are the ones looked upon to set a high standard for future students. The last challenge is the ongoing doctor strike in Kenya that has affected many hospitals. We are grateful to have a facility like SCH that allows us to utilize this facility as part of our training.
What are some memorable moments you have had at SCH in the five weeks you have been here that will resonate with you as you continue your studies?
Hezron: In my medical experience I’ve never seen Hirschsprung disease. It’s not until I got to SCH I was able to witness my first case. It’s very rare to see this disease in this region and I’m glad I was able to witness one.
Hirschsprung disease is a condition that affects the large intestine (colon) and causes problems with passing stool. The condition is present at birth (congenital) as a result of missing nerve cells in the muscles of the baby’s colon (Mayo Clinic).
Collins: I also agree with Hezron. It’s great to see cases in a practical setting as opposed to a theoretical setting in the classroom. We discussed and read about Hirschsprung disease in books, but seeing it at the hospital was a great learning experience. I am also grateful to be exposed to the Emergency Department here at SCH. The department is advanced compared to other facilities we have been exposed to. It has been a wonderful to receive hands on experience on how to use different medical equipment. I feel confident in my abilities to interpret monitors. I’m glad to be exposed and trained on the uses of ultrasound and EKG machines.. Lastly, we’ve been taught how to look at [medical] articles to gain medical experience that will be useful when practicing medicine and improving quality of care.
Bridget: For me, the greatest learning experience for me has been learning about ATLS (Advance Trauma Life Support). I hope in the near future SCH or other facilities can provide training for health professionals. From a health administrative lens, I would love to see SCH become the capital training hospital for ATLS and BTLS (Basic Trauma Life Support) and be able to accommodate providers who may come from far away for the training.
Any other comments you would like to add before we conclude our interview?
Davine: The experience at SCH has truly been an amazing experience. The fellows from MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) and the doctors from Sagam are really passionate about their work and want help you grow as a person and doctor. Everybody here cares and wants you to learn.
Bernadette: The patient care at SCH is really nice compared to other facilities. The staff members here are passionate and care about their patient’s health. This can be seen through how they treat their patients and the level of care they provide for them. The punctuality is really good at SCH as well.
Bridget: The MGH fellows have been great teachers and role models. It’s been a wonderful experience getting a fresh medical perspective from them, and learning different ways we can improve the quality of care for patients.
Collins: The experience at SCH has been student friendly for both the patients and the staff. There is no animosity against the students like you see at other facilities. Here your being guided and taught.
Hezron: At times the learning process can be intimidating and most people are quick to point out what you don’t know and what you need to know, making the learning experience horrible. At SCH, the learning experience has been very friendly. In addition, here at SCH, you can relate to many staff members. You can easily ask questions and ask for clarifications and staff members are more than eager to answer you. Learning here is very objective and a great experience.
On last question, where do you see yourselves in five years?
Bernadette: I can see myself as a surgeon. I want to specialize in endocrine surgery.
Hezron: I can see myself as an orthopedic consultant.
Collins: I really like physiology and I can see myself pursing a career in either emergency medicine or becoming a medical surgeon. I’ve been told that emergency medicine is waning away in Kenya, but my experience here at SCH has proved me otherwise.
Davine: I would like to be an orthopedic surgeon or an ob-gyn specialist. Hopefully, in three years I’ll decide which specialty I want to pursue from these options.
Bridget: I can see myself as a medical entrepreneur.