As part of their medical degree, Warwick students on the accelerated MB ChB programme get chance for some practical experience.
Here, Gloryann Aidoo - Micah, a second year medical student, tells us about her time in Ghana where she worked with Action for Rural Education (ARE) to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in rural communities where access to healthcare is very limited.
I spent two weeks in Twifo Praso (rural part of Ghana) and one week in the capital, Accra. During the first week, I was trained by ARE personnel in the effective delivery about HIV/AIDS to a community that was largely illiterate and non-English speaking. I also learnt a lot about the culture and the context within which the people were living, as well as visiting other ARE partner organisations within Twifo Praso.
I visited 4 separate remote villages where, together with other work experience students, I delivered a presentation to local villagers. Our presentation covered information about what HIV/AIDS is, how it can be transmitted, treated, and prevented. Special attention was paid to trying to reduce stigmatisation of HIV patients, as we learnt that this was a hugely significant barrier to testing in such communities. I also had the opportunity to observe district nurses conducting counselling and testing where one new diagnosis was made. During my time spent in a local district hospital, I came to appreciate the challenges of practicing medicine with very limited resources and personnel... honestly, it makes you very grateful for our NHS.
The third week was spent at the University of Ghana's Teaching Hospital, which is the largest of its kind in the whole of West Africa. The standard of care and availability of resources was a direct contrast to the district hospital I had visited in Twifo Praso. Additionally, I had the opportunity to spend time on the Paediatrics ward where I saw cases such as retinoblastoma, which I have learnt about in my lessons but never actually seen before. And there was the exciting moment when I observed two Caesarean-sections on the obstetrics and gynaecology ward.
I found it an awesome learning experience that has certainly triggered my interest in Obstetrics and Gynaecology - something I will explore further as a potential speciality and career option.
The entire placement experience was great but the part that stood out to me the most was the HIV/AIDS outreach work we did in the small villages. It was surprising to me that the settlements were so remote that some people had never even heard of HIV. I came away from our presentation, testing and counselling feeling like the work we did had made a real difference:
- People were more aware of HIV/AIDS, which is a serious problem in Africa
- People were open to the idea of getting tested despite stigma being a problem
- One diagnosis was made which meant that the affected lady could be started on appropriate treatment
All in all, this experience has given me practical experience and opened my eyes to a possible area of specialism that I may have otherwise not considered and I came home even more motivated to pursue my medical career and studies.