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My Medical Elective - Tanzania

By Matthew Davies

My Medical Elective - Tanzania

Hello again!  The past few weeks have really flown by, and next week will be my final one in the hospital. During the past week I spent some time on paediatrics, which made an interesting change. 

As you can imagine, the case load is somewhat different from that in the UK with conditions such as malaria and malnutrition being all too common.  Another feature, as in the adult setting, has been patients presenting with very advanced disease. One case that particularly stuck with me was a child with retinoblastoma who presented with extensive extraocular disease.

There are a number of reasons for late presentation, including the education of patients and caregivers, absence of healthcare facilities in rural areas and monetary barriers to accessing healthcare.

The financial costs include both the direct costs of treatment and indirect costs such as for transport and lost income whilst travelling to the hospital - for patients living in remote areas even a clinic visit might require a day or two.

Many people in Tanzanian also continue to place great reliance on traditional healers, who are generally much more readily accessible than doctors - there is one doctor for every 50,000 people in Tanzanian, compared to one traditional healer for every 400 people.

So, many patients present to hospital only after traditional methods have failed. Whilst some of these treatments may well be beneficial, we have also seen negative consequences arising from traditional medicine such as acute kidney injuries from medicinal herbs.

I spent last weekend in Arusha visiting my friend, Loy, who I met while he was studying in Liverpool, where we attended the same church.  After he finished his degree he moved back to Arusha, where he is working in IT. It was great to catch up after three years, and to be able to meet some of his family and friends.

Arusha is the launching point for most international visitors going on safari in Tanzania and feels very busy and built up compared to Moshi, which has a much more relaxed vibe.

On the Saturday we paid a trip to Arusha Snake Park, where you can see many of the species native to Tanzania including the feared black mamba - so named because of the colour of the inside of its mouth. After that we took a boat ride on Lake Duluti, a local beauty spot which is situated in volcanic crater claimed to be over 700 m deep.

Tonight we are heading to a charity fundraising dinner, which aims to raise £10,000 for one of the Tanzanian medical students who requires a kidney transplant.  The procedure is not yet widely available within the country, with the first transplant ever performed in Tanzania only being carried out last year.

The event should be a good start to the weekend and will give us an opportunity to catch up with the local students who have been busy with exams for the past couple of weeks.  This weekend we are heading to the Usambara Mountains to do some hiking before our final week in the hospital next week.

After that we have a couple of weeks of holiday to look forward to before heading back to the UK for the start of fifth year.  Hopefully my next update will come from a beach in Zanzibar! Till then!

Are you going on your Elective soon?  Find out more about Wesleyan's Elective Insurance here.

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