Emma Bloom ’18 – International Medical Aid in Mombasa, Kenya (1/3)

I am writing from Mombasa, Kenya where I am interning with International Medical Aid, a nonprofit organization aiming to provide sustainable medical support to underserved populations. At Skidmore, I majored in neuroscience and ultimately discovered my passion for medicine. Here in Mombasa, I am beginning to cultivate this passion and further develop my knowledge and technical skills.

As a pre-med intern, I am involved in various mobile medical clinics, health and hygiene education programs, and other types of community outreach, but my day-to-day schedule primarily involves shadowing and aiding physicians and nurses at Coast Provincial General Hospital, the largest hospital in the coastal region. “Under-resourced” is a term used to describe hospitals all over the world, as costs of healthcare continue to rise and physician and nurse shortages are common. However, the lack of technical and human resources at CPGH (despite it being such a large and highly regarded institution) was beyond what I have encountered anywhere else. The status of this hospital initially came as quite a shock to me, but after just a few days, I was nothing short of awestruck by what these healthcare providers accomplish with so many patients and such limited resources. Because of their restrictive capacity for use of diagnostic tests, they must be extremely thorough and equally as fast in examining their patients.

In the ER I have learned how to take patients’ relevant medical histories when presenting with various symptoms, what to examine when a patient comes in unconscious, and how to suture a superficial wound. In the labor ward, I have assisted in deliveries and observed multiple C-sections. In Pediatrics I have learned so much about life-threatening illnesses that are a far smaller burden at home, such as malaria, TB, and pneumonia, as well as how they treat affected children. In the Comprehensive Care Clinic, I became familiar with the massive HIV burden in Kenya, and how they have managed to drastically reduce its death toll and control its spread in recent years. I am looking forward to my last week here where I will be rotating in the Newborn Unit as well as the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Center.

I have been learning so much in the hospital, but perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my internship is holding a child’s hand while he has his arm sutured following a car accident, or coaching a woman through her breathing while she delivers her first child with no one by her side. These are the small but significant experiences that remind me why I am pursuing a career in medicine. I cannot wait to return to programs like IMA when I have the education and the experience that will allow me to truly help out in hospitals like this one.

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