Erica Miller Article 1
I had the tremendous opportunity to study at the Weill Bugando Medical Center and Bugando University School of Health Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania during the summer between my first and second years of medical school. I spent most of my time in the hospital’s Department of Internal Medicine. We were welcomed to join the teams of Bugando residents, interns, and assistant medical officers (AMOs) at morning conferences and on the hospital wards for rounds. We participated in discussions about patient cases and were invited to ask and answer questions. Since I have had limited experience in hospitals in the Unites States, working with residents visiting Bugando from New York Hospital provided insight into differences between the two settings. We worked with patients suffering from diverse diseases, some common in the United States like hypertension and others practically unheard of at home like shistosomiasis. It was exciting to problem solve as a part of the housestaff team and exhilarating to learn about medicine through our patients rather than from our textbooks.
As a visiting medical student, I also worked with members of the faculty on research projects designed to evaluate the burden of diseases in the Bugando patient population and target future interventions. Using the records of the Histopathology Department, I compiled information about the frequency of different types of cancer diagnoses. We compared current results with data from seven years ago, and will use our data to communicate to members of the Bugando community which types of cancer are being diagnosed most frequently and which cancers are diagnosed more rarely, possibly indicating a need for improved diagnostics or targeted interventions. Another project involved looking specifically at patients diagnosed with bladder cancer by the hospital’s histopathologist. After collecting information from biopsy results, we reviewed patient charts, looking for history of schistosomiasis and other possible risk factors. Schistosomiasis is endemic to the Mwanza and Lake Victoria region, and through this project we hope to evaluate the burden of squamous cell bladder cancer, a known long term complication of chronic schistosomiasis.
The Cornell medical students also eagerly participated in Bugando student life. We shared meals with Tanzanian students in the medical student cafeteria, attended lectures and small group sessions, lived in the student dormitory on campus, and enjoyed the sights of Mwanza with residents as our guides. It was exciting to see what medical school is like in Tanzania and wonderful to connect with our peers studying in a different country. The students are friendly, welcoming, and as eager to learn about us and the United States as we are to learn about their lives and their country. The summer went by very quickly, and as the students at Bugando frequently asked me, I find myself wondering when I will be able to return to Mwanza. Whenever that may be, I am grateful now to have the lasting friendships, memories, and experiences from my wonderful summer in Tanzania.
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