Mambo! I have so far been living in Haydom, Tanzania at the Haydom Lutheran Hospital for just short of 4 weeks, and I have learned a great deal thanks to the research team here at Haydom, my mentor Dr. Tania Thomas, and the support of the CGH University Scholar Award. I have for the past 4 weeks been involved in a variety of activities.
Firstly, I want to give you some background on the Haydom Lutheran Hospital in case you are interested in working in Haydom at some point. It is a large hospital primarily funded by Friends of Haydom, a Norwegian organization, which provides medical care to a large rural catchment area. To give you an idea about Haydom’s location, it is approximately 6 hours to the next major city, Arusha. HLH hosts many volunteers, primarily from Europe, that are involved in development projects ranging from improving water sources to volunteering in the medical clinics. The least trained volunteers, in my opinion, are the medical students as all other volunteers have some professional background.
My primary project is collecting and analyzing qualitative surveys examining how pediatric anti-Tuberculosis medications are managed by parents and children. I also have had the opportunity to help collect samples for the main research study that my project is funded by, which is the un-MASC TB study. The un-MASC TB study is assessing the diagnostic efficacy of a blood assay to diagnose Pediatric Tuberculosis because currently there are many impediments to accurately diagnosing pediatric TB, which is typically diagnosed through a combination of sputum culture, xray, blood culture, and clinical symptoms (most often clinical symptoms). For these projects, I mainly work in the research department under the advisement of Museveni, a doctor trained in Dar Es Salaam that oversees the un-MASC TB study.
Recently, I participated in outreach. Haydom sends doctors and nurses by land and by plane to villages located further from Haydom, since cost and geography are limiting factors for many patients within Haydom’s catchment area. During the day I participated in outreach, I administered childhood vaccinations to several hundred babies with the guidance of Julia, a nurse from Holland and a few other medical students from the UK. Vaccinations included oral polio vaccine, oral rotavirus vaccine (a major cause of diarrhea), BCG (childhood vaccination for Tuberculosis), measles, pneumococcal (PCV), and Penta (a conjugate vaccine including diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and haempohilus influenza B). These are vital vaccines that could protect the lives of many children.
I have to say aside from my work in Haydom, I have also come to appreciate my new friends working in LENA, the research department, and the other volunteers. My work has also made me more committed to becoming a Pediatrician and possibly specializing in Pediatric Infectious Disease at some point. I have learned a great deal, and am excited to continue learning during my last 3 weeks in Haydom. Despite the extreme poverty in most of the areas I have seen since arriving in Haydom, many people have opened their homes to me, providing us meals during outreach, and teaching me how to work here in Tanzania. This kindness to me is incredible and inspirational given many of the hardships, both financial and health, faced by most of the people I have met.