University of Oxford 2011

Medical, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

As I was going on my elective on my own and had never travelled before, I decided to go with a company. I discovered Work the World and was really impressed, so signed up for ten weeks in Tanzania. Compared to my friends who were organising their electives by themselves, it was a breeze. The team were always on hand to answer any questions I had (and there were a lot!) and provided loads of information to help with my preparation.
I arrived in Dar Es Salaam at 7am in the morning after an overnight flight to be greeted by a beaming Alpha, the programme manager and a wave of heat! I was taken straight to the house which was absolutely amazing; the pool was gorgeous, and would provide a welcome break from the hot weather during my stay. The house had varying numbers of students in it over the weeks, from 4 to 24! There were always people around to talk to and other students to spend weekends and free time with. Everyone I met was really friendly and great fun and it was them that made the trip.

The staff at the house were fantastic and could not do enough to help you. Alpha and Rashid, the housekeeper were excellent at suggesting things for you to do at weekends and helping arrange it and Rahema's food was delicious and plentiful!

My first placement was five weeks at the national referral hospital on general medicine. I found the hospital slightly intimidating at first as it was absolutely huge. It took me a while to settle in to my placement, but I soon found all the staff to be very friendly. The hospital had good resources (including an MRI and dialysis unit) and the wards were generally very clean. I spent a lot of my time with the local interns, who had to do their own wards rounds most days. I went to teaching sessions, on wards rounds and to clinics (which were manic!) Common problems were malaria, TB, HIV, anaemia and chronic kidney disease.

My next placement was four weeks on paediatrics at the district hospital. I preferred this - it was smaller and felt friendlier. There was one paediatrics ward which was split in two - contagious (diarrhoea) and non-contagious, which was mostly malaria and pneumonia. There were often two children (and two mums) to a bed. There was an 'intensive care unit' which was a walled-off area of the ward with three cots in it where patients went if they needed oxygen. The consultant, Dr Doulla, was an absolute legend and really welcoming to elective students.

I spent my last week doing the village experience at Kivunge on Zanzibar. The family we stayed with were lovely.  As is the way with village living let's just say that the facilities were basic, but the bedroom was fine! The hospital was tiny with a consulting room for out-patients, maternity unit, a new HIV clinic, one small theatre and a few medical wards. There was only one doctor and one nurse on call to cover the entire hospital, and the only medications they can provide for inpatients are antibiotics and fluids. They have oxygen cylinders but when we were there they had run out of tubing and masks. Any conditions requiring more complicated treatment were sent to the main hospital on Zanzibar which is an hour away in Stone Town. We spent some time at each of departments with the highlight being seeing a baby being born. The afternoon activities with our guide Ali were really fun. We went to a local soap factory, an 'aquarium' (which was a pond with turtles in it!) some caves where you could swim and a spice farm where we ate some delicious bread curry. It was great fun!  

There was plenty of time outside of placement to relax and explore. The weekly barbeques were a highlight with Rahema's AMAZING steak (the best I've tasted), a few beverages then a trip to the local club 'Sweet Eazy' where a live band play a random selection of tunes including Michael Jackson, Dire Straits and Justin Bieber! I did lots of activities at weekends:
Multiple trips to Zanzibar - I went to Stone Town, the beaches at Jambiani and Pongwe, a beach party at Kendwa and swimming with dolphins at Kizimkazi (a highlight of the trip - I would definitely recommend!)Safari - we went to Mikumi National Park which is small but has elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons and antelope.Bagomoyo - we took a cycling tour of this historical town which was really interesting and enjoyable.Bongoyo Island - beach island, great to spend a day thereI had a wonderful elective and the ten weeks absolutely flew by!

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