We began our partnership with the Global Health Department at Danbury Hospital in March 2014. We were thrilled to welcome Phiona Bukirwa from Uganda. She spent most of her nine months in our department learning anatomic pathology, and participating in sign-outs and unknown case conferences and slide reviews that advanced her diagnostic skills immensely. She also worked with Dr. Chacho on a thyroid cytology project. Carole Achola, also from Uganda, spent six months with us. Keenly interested in hematopathology, she spent her time in our department reviewing cases and sitting for sign-outs, participating in unknown slide conferences and other didactic conferences during those months. She also worked on a gastrointestinal project on sessile serrated adenoma and hyperplastic polyps with our PGY2 resident, Quoc Nguyen.
Both scholars adjusted well and were friendly with the residents and attendings. They were not only proactive in picking up cases but exhibited a thirst to learn more and make the best of the opportunity provided them. Carole, who was primarily placed in the AP residents’ room, found a collection of older edition pathology textbooks not being used that could benefit her fellow residents in Uganda. We were more than willing to send them over to Makerere University in Kampala when she requested them from us. We are hoping they will be well used, as they would otherwise have remained dormant in the residents’ office. This collaboration with Ugandan residents would have not been possible without my coordinator Ms. Cindy Robertson who has dedicated her time and energy to helping these students feel at home.
Working with these scholars was both rewarding and humbling. We take for granted the abundance of information and resources we have readily at our fingertips. As program director and advocate for resident learning, I began to stress to my residents the importance of arriving at a definitive diagnosis with minimal tools, avoiding overdependence on immunohistochemical stains when a diagnosis could be derived simply from a hematoxylin and eosin stain slide. Following these guidelines can teach residents to practice cost-effective pathology.
The greatest impact these scholars made on me, my residents, and our department was in giving us awareness of the freedom we have to excel, and the financial resources we as a country can take advantage of to learn and invent instead of merely trying to keep people alive. These scholars are truly resilient, do not take resources for granted, and are grateful for the opportunities they are given. Gratefulness impacts us all. We will encourage more such experiences in the future and are grateful to the global health program for this possibility.