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Medicine & Healthcare in Sri Lanka by Reham Garash

Volunteer in Sri Lanka

I got my internship this summer in Panadura, Sri Lanka through a programme called Projects Abroad. Since I am a Biology major with a pre-medical concentration, I chose my internship to be in a hospital to get more clinical hours and medical experience before applying for a medical school. Furthermore, I chose my internship to be abroad to get the chance to expand my universe by exploring a different culture.

I also chose my internship to be specifically in Sri Lanka which is a really poor country to be exposed to poverty and to deal with a lot of people who seek free health care in the government hospital. This is to allow myself for a spiritual growth through interacting with needy people which will enhance the level of my compassion, empathy, and initiative to help. All are important to empower in my personality to be a successful health care provider in the future.

Role on my medicine placement

In my internship, I observed doctors, asked for clarifications about different diseases and witnessed different medical procedures. In my internship which lasted for one month I have worked in four different departments of the hospital. The first week was in the paediatric department, the second week was in emergency, the third week was in surgery, and the last week was in women's health department.

Elephant visitDuring those weeks I shadowed doctors while diagnosing patients and treating them. After each patient the doctor explained to me the patient's case and the treatment required for it. For example: I learned how to tell if patient had dengue fever or a normal fever. This type of fever is easily spread by mosquitoes and is really common in Sri Lanka. So, I learned how to differentiate if the patient had dengue fever or not by the patient’s physical symptoms.

I also was shadowing doctors who were treating and monitoring patients who were admitted to the hospital. I was witnessing the improvement on those patients day after day and trying to cheer them up and bring smiles to their beautiful faces by playing with them and/ or talking with them if they were adults. Sometimes communicating with those patients can be really hard because of the language barrier but I always try my best using signs.

I assigned myself a project while I was interning in the hospital. The project was to make improvements to the paediatric ward in the hospital. At first I was not sure what type of improvement was most needed by patients because to me everything was really messed up in the ward and many things needed to be done. For example I really wanted to bring air conditioning unites because heat was really causing physicians and patients to suffer. Also, because the windows were always open to cool the ward a lot of mosquitoes enter and bite patients and sometime transmit diseases!

However, when I asked nurses they told me yes they would love to have AC unit but it is considered a luxury request and the electricity would cost a lot, compared to what is really needed by patients which is an isolation room.

Medicine in Sri Lanka

The isolation room they had in the ward was not by any means isolated and patients with transmitted diseases are not really isolated inside this room. So, isolating the isolation room was my project! I followed those steps to do this project.

Medical camp

I participated in a medical camp that was organised by Projects Abroad. The medical camp provides hands on experience for pre-medical students. This camp offered free medical check-ups such as measuring blood pressure and sugar for patients and then they get seen by volunteer doctors for prescriptions. In the medical camp almost 400 patients came to get a general check-up.

My role in that day was to measure and record blood pressure and sugar for 150 patients. I gained great hands on experience that day and learned a lot about patient interacting skills.

From reading the book Half The Sky I have learned that it is better to do the charity by yourself instead of sending money and let other people do it for you to be able to see poverty and witness the impact of your donation. This is because by witnessing poverty and hardships that other people encounter you will increase your sense of responsibility and compassion toward those people and you will be unable to forget about them.

With local children

I was able to relate to this when I saw one man from England who is the head of the charity department in an international school in Qatar. This man was donating shoes to school kids in the same town I worked in. This man came to give those shoes to Panadura kids which were donated by the students from the school he worked for. This man was telling me that he is planning to bring students from his school with him next time to witness the poverty that those other kids go through and see the impact that their donation had on them.

In conclusion, I feel so satisfied with what I have learned and gained from it. This internship not only gave me the ability to be around doctors and know how it feels to be one, it also taught me how to decide to be a health care provider for the right reason which is only to help people and save lives. It also taught me how to be open-minded, well-rounded, and be able to deal with different people. It also enhanced my sense of responsibility towards others in need and made me always think about how I can help others. And now I am even more excited than ever to get into medical school and be a health care provider in the future... Finally, this internship also taught me how to appreciate all things in life as a privilege not as a given.

Reham Garash

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