Gap medics in Dominican Republic - Pirates of the Caribbean
Aug 4, 2016
It was one of the valuable experience l have ever had. l met lovely people, the stuff was amazing, friendly and always availalabe and they made me feel like home.
l learnt so many things shadowing doctors in the different wards, volunteering in a local village and orphanage....these are things that you cannot learn from books. At the same time l enjoyed the wonderful sea, swum with dolphins and did ocean sports like parasailing.
I stayed in Tanzania for 2 weeks, on the under 18s programme in Morogoro. Initially, the thought of flying alone was daunting, especially because I was only 16 at the time, but I was put at ease when I met other friendly students at the airport. At Dar es Salaam airport, we were met by Clarence who was really friendly and kind, and ensured that we were safely transported to the hotel near the airport. The following morning, we all enjoyed breakfast together, and then drove to the lodge in Morogoro. The facilities, like the pool and volleyball nets, in the lodge were great, and the food was amazing! The House Staff were brilliant, and I immediately felt safe, and cared for, even when I had to visit the doctor!
The first week of my placement was a surgery rotation, where I observed pre and post surgical treatments, as well as numerous live surgeries. The doctors and nurses were really supportive and made sure that I felt comfortable to ask questions, and that I was able to make the most of my placement. The surgeries I observed were really eye-opening and provided huge clinical exposure; more than anything I was able to find in the UK. We were really involved with the doctors and nurses, and were able to speak to the patients freely.
The second week of my placement was General Medicine, which again was great! I was able to see a variety of different treatments, including surgery, anti and post natal check ups, and some dental treatments. The doctors and nurses again were really kind, and made sure that we were safe, but also learnt from the observations and experiences we are provided with throughout the programme.
The safari weekend was amazing, and was a once in a lifetime experience! I really would recommend the safari to anyone going to Tanzania!
The placement provided not only a vast learning experience, but a very enjoyable time, where I was able to grow more confident as a person. I am most grateful for the support and kindness from everyone in the Morogoro camp. The other students were really friendly, and we're all still in touch now! I was lucky enough to secure offers to study Medicine at university, and I feel that a vital part of my application was the ability to compare and reflect on healthcare systems, and to speak of my experiences in Tanzania, and more importantly, the important skills and morals it instilled.
It was an amazing experience which helped me grow and learn. I learned more in those two weeks than years before that due to the great teaching and the environment that we were in. The facilities were amazing and the staff were incredibly kind and caring. They went out of there way to help and look after everyone who took part in the program. We had an amazing time in the hospitals but the other activities which where all arranged by the team were equally amazing. I loved the orphanage, spending time with the children was humbling and fun. We learned a lot from them. I made some amazing friends and would love to return.
It must be an incredible trip when you are already planning when you can do it again whilst on the plane trip home?
I could write countless pages about my experience with Gap Medics but I think three words sum it up better than any essay could: unforgettable, challenging and inspiring. Exposure to the harsh reality of Tanzania's impoverishment was an incredible culture shock and was certainly nothing short of challenging. Now I know some might read the word 'challenging' and be discouraged, but I can't emphasise enough the positive impact this has had on me as a 19 year old Uni student. I highly encourage anyone considering Gap Medics to take on this challenge and immerse themselves in an amazing trip that no review on a travel website could suffice.
I really enjoyed the time we were able to spend at the orphanage. That wasn't really focused on when I read through the trip description. I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to meet and bond with the children there. I was also surprised at how close we were to all the action going on inside of the hospital. I didn't really know what to expect before arriving, but I never imagined that we would be able to get such up close exposure to the extensive surgeries we saw. I was literally five feet away from the orthopedic surgeon as he replaced a man's knee cap! And the doctors there were super professional, but also very kind. And if their department was having a bit of a slow day, they still made sure that you got to see something exciting by having you watch other operations in different departments. I was in Urology one week and Orthopedic surgery the next, but still was able to witness a c-section birth as well as a little of a spine surgery. The experience I gained in Thailand as well as the fun I had meeting new people and making new friends was well worth the cost of the trip.
What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked for there to have been a little online language tutorial session before I got there. The staff did an excellent job teaching us the basics when we got there, but it was a bit overwhelming trying to remember it all. I would have liked to have had a little more practice before arriving so I could communicate better with the locals.
Hángma is a third year student at Teesside University in the United Kingdom, majoring in BSC Biomedical Sciences. She is also a member and volunteer of the St. John Ambulance Team.
Why did you pick this program?
I chose to join this program as it provided me a challenging environment with a unique kind of medical experience that I would not have received if I had chosen to do a similar program in the United Kingdom. Trying to pursue a career in the health sector and securing a place at medical school can be very competitive, but this program provided broad experience which will help me to enhance my personal statement and prepare me for the future.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I would definitely recommend it because it is a once in a life time opportunity and an unforgettable experience. Learning a new language, new culture, and meeting new people from all around the world who share the same interests as me was amazing. I would tell them not to be scared to meet new people, because you get to learn a lot from it.
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What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Hearing 'Iringa, Tanzania' might put you off from applying to this program, but it will give you the insight and experience of being in a medical setting. You will have an opportunity to watch surgery and other procedures up close, which is difficult to witness in the United Kingdom if you are under 18. Do not feel uncomfortable to inquire about anything that you are unsure about during ward rounds. This placement will definitely prepare you for medical school. Aside from the academic program, there are so many interesting things to do and experience in Tanzania; if you love seeing beautiful landscapes and watching wildlife, then you will fall in love with this country.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I have so many beautiful memories and stories of the trip but my favorite one would be going to the Local orphanage to meet the children. Each child was unique in their own way. All of the children were so happy, friendly and had a lot of respect for their teachers and volunteers. They were so grateful for each day. Even a small thing like a packet of biscuits made them feel so happy. At the same time, it was heartbreaking for me to see that they do not face the same opportunities as the average child in the United Kingdom, for example, does. This helped me to open up my eyes, appreciate, and be thankful for all the little things I have in my life.
Hángma's health tips for visiting Tanzania:
Note that short sleeves and skirts are not appropriate in many parts of Africa, so make sure that you pack loose trousers and long sleeves. You will most likely need anti-malarial tablets for most areas in Africa, make sure that you go to your doctor ahead of time and get a prescription. In addition to the way you dress, packing a strong insect repellent is key to avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes. Don't forget to pack a bottle of hand sanitizer and keep it with you, specifically during hospital placements, as the hospitals typically do not have enough hand sanitizer for each ward.