Gap Medics Alumni: Understanding global health

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Bianca testimonial

Aspiring physician Bianca was the Summer 2015 winner of our AMSA Service & Leadership Scholarship. She impressed the panel with her eloquent and passionate application; a short essay in which she spoke about her determination to become a physician, her commitment to continued education and her desire to affect meaningful change in her community. Bianca joined us in Iringa, Tanzania this past December. We spoke to her about her experience:

“I encourage students to apply for the scholarship – don’t let the fear of rejection put you off, because someone has to win and it could be you!”

Why did you decide to join Gap Medics?

I wanted to choose a shadowing program that would allow me to immerse myself into a new culture, whilst gaining insight into healthcare challenges faced in developing countries. I chose Gap Medics because it provides a safe and structured environment, with plenty of opportunity for adventure and discovery; from trying foods you wouldn’t try at home to learning a new language and traditions. Gaining experience in various specialties was also a goal of mine, and Gap Medics allows you to shadow multiple physicians from various health care departments including Surgery and Pediatrics.

How did you feel when you were awarded the AMSA scholarship?

So much joy! I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity to follow my passion in gaining a global health experience, and the amazing experience I had at Gap Medics would not have been possible without AMSA. I encourage students to apply for the scholarship – don’t let the fear of rejection put you off, because someone has to win and it could be you! Overall, earning the AMSA scholarship was a dream come true.

What was your internship like?

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Meeting newborns in the maternity ward – Iringa Regional Hospital.

A typical day began with a wakeup call from the chickens: time to get up and get ready for breakfast! Breakfast was cooked by the house chef and usually consisted of eggs, crepes (my favorite), oatmeal, and lots of fruit. At the end of breakfast it was time to go to placement which was about a 20 minute walk.

Upon arrival, a Gap Medics staff member greeted us and we headed to our departments to change into our scrubs and protective gear. Every day on placement was different and it varied depending on the department you were placed in that week. For example, during my first week of placement in the Surgery department, on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays were rounds. Rounds consisted of visiting every patient in the women’s and male surgical wards. Tuesdays and Thursdays were theater days. On theater days we watched numerous amounts of surgeries ranging from tumor removals and orthopedics surgery. Theater day was amazing because we were only a few feet away from the surgical table, so it was pretty awesome!

After placement, if there are no events planned on the schedule, Gap Medics students are free to explore Iringa. This includes eating at local restaurants, visiting the local market, going to the grocery store to purchase the best chocolate in Tanzania (Tanzanian chocolate is amazing!). There is enough time to feel immersed in the local culture, which I loved!

What will you remember most?

My most memorable experience in Iringa would definitely be my first day at Iringa Regional Hospital. As you pursue a career in medicine, you always hear about the disparities that exist but experiencing them first-hand was truly humbling. I was amazed throughout my placement to see how physicians are able to innovate the supplies that have to provide care for patients and how treatment plans were carried out regardless of limited access to supplies.

What’s the most important thing you learned?

The most important thing I learned during my placement was the importance of giving back and putting your patients first. When being a health care provider, whether a nurse, physician, physician assistant, you are no longer putting yourself first but your patients first. You take the appropriate precautions to keep yourself safe but you use every resource you have regardless of limitations to provide the best health care you can.

“My two weeks in Iringa were the best two weeks of my life.”

What would you tell other students considering a Gap Medics internship?

DO IT! It is the most rewarding experience! My two weeks in Iringa were the best two weeks of my life. I learned more about myself, gained new friends, but most importantly gained an experience I could not gain shadowing in my home country.

Shadowing overseas allows you to gain an insight into health care in developing countries; seeing different treatment plans for various diseases that are not as common in your home country, such as Malaria and HIV. You also learn how physicians create a treatment plan understanding their patients how a low income and limited resources. Shadowing oversees also shows you how physicians overcome barriers that exist, whether it’s education or income barriers. Therefore, I highly encourage aspiring physicians, like myself, to do a shadowing placement overseas.

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The latest round of applications for our AMSA Service & Leadership Scholarship is open. If you’ve already signed up for a Gap Medics internship, and are a member of AMSA, you’re eligible to apply! If you win, you’ll get a two-week premed placement in the Dominican Republic or Tanzania – free of charge. The deadline for applications is April 15 2016.

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