As the pediatric outreach clinic in the Langast Maasai village drew to a hot and dusty close, second-year med student Michelle Bar realized that she, three student colleagues and a single physician had assessed and treated 250 children in a mere two days. "This is probably the only opportunity for treatment that these kids will get this year," she reflected.
Along with fellow students Hailey Allen and Lindsay Braun, Bar spent eight weeks in July and August on OB/GYN, pediatric and surgical rotations at Mt. Meru hospital in Arusha, a town of 270,000 people in northeast Tanzania. Their trip was sponsored in part by the OHSU Global Health Center and the R. Bradley Sack International Scholarship Fund.
"We learned to rely much more on the physical exam since there was no imaging equipment other than an x-ray machine and an ultrasound device in the hospital," said Bar. Although they felt the need to learn Swahili for "I am not a doctor" as early as the second day, all three students found themselves fully participating in deliveries and surgical procedures, and seeing diseases that they had only heard about in classroom courses.
The challenges of physical diagnosis, limited treatment options and different standards of ongoing care made some aspects of their experience difficult to get used to. "But it was a confidence booster, and helped me further define my career choice," said Bar.
Pictured: l to r – Lindsay Braun, Hailey Allen and Michelle Bar in Tanzania.