Light and Shadow Under an African Sky

Written by Tendai Machingaidze, medical student studying in Russia who helped support UVMLCOM/WCHN global health participants in Zimbabwe

It is not a small thing to leave the comfort of one’s country and home to venture to a foreign land for the sole purpose of expanding one’s knowledge. But, what better classroom is there to learn about global health than the world itself?

Reflections from Zimbabwe: Global Health in Evolution

Written by Dr. Stephen Scholand, Site Director at Cho Ray Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Global Health Program

I’ve been interested in global health even before it had the attention and respect this emerging field receives today. My first experiences extend back almost twenty years ago, when as a resident-in-training I happened to find myself in a city hospital in the heart of Manila. San Lazaro Hospital cared for the poor and underprivileged with a paucity of resources and medicine. It was there that I saw many heart-wrenching cases including human rabies, neonatal tetanus, rampant tuberculosis and other savage diseases. I was amazed by the passion and dedication of the doctors who worked under the most difficult conditions yet strived to do their best despite the obstacles. I could see it was truly out of love that they worked so hard. I felt deeply inspired, that this was something I wanted to do… that this was why I became a physician: to change the world, one patient at a time. Even if the odds seemed incredibly difficult, I knew in my heart that something could be done.

This Week Brought the Strike

Written by Sarah King, M.D. '17

This week brought the strike of the junior and senior resident medical officers (JRMO and SRMO).  They have gone on strike for a number of reasons, including salary, but also because there is no guaranteed job once they finish the first two years of post-graduate training.  Typically, after these two years doctors will work in a rural area for at least a year, a way of “giving back” to the government.  Unfortunately, although there are not enough open posts for the graduating SRMOs, the government will not issue permits to work in  private practice leave the country. As a result,  after seven years of training, a large proportion of them will not be able to find work.

Outrage As Impact

Written by Sarah King '17

I’ve been home now for just over a week. I was so excited to come home to see my friends and family and perhaps most of all my two dogs, that the realization that I am home didn’t sink until I had been home for a couple of days. I feel sad that I was not able to help more, that I am able to fly across the world back home to my comfy bed, my healthy family and friends, my car. I feel guilty realizing just how very privileged and lucky I am. We give my one of my 14 year old dogs a medication for her painful arthritis that many patients in Zimbabwe could not even afford. I’ve been struggling with feeling despair about the lives and suffering of so many people, of such profound poverty.

Closed Doors Have Opened Others: Part II

Written by Katrin Sadigh, MD, WCHN assigned faculty for program development at Zimbabwe University

On Thursday morning, we attended the weekly Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) Clinic. This clinic specializes in the care of patients with this vascular tumor, with epidemic (HIV-related) and endemic (non HIV-related) the most common types seen in this patient population. We worked first with the senior housestaff member and then with the attending. Roughly forty patients are seen in this clinic weekly, though previously, the numbers averaged between sixty and eighty. Many patients are followed over several years, and return for follow up of quiescent disease. Others are referred from outside clinics and hospitals for initial evaluation and subsequent management of KS. Others are simply sick and complex, sent by their physicians with accompanying letters, asking for assistance.

Closed Doors Have Opened Others: Part I

Written by Katrin Sadigh, MD, WCHN assigned faculty for program development at Zimbabwe University

Rain, and plenty of it, has been cast as the main character of our first week in Harare. Not the kind of rain that even the local people expect during the rainy season, its brief, sudden arrival muddying the streets though with hints of blue skies in the distance. Now, the cloud cover does not dissipate, issuing any manner of rain, torrential or mist, overnight and throughout the day. It seems fitting somehow, as I awake each morning twisted in stiff white linens, stenciled with “University of Zimbabwe” in black letters, my dreams heavy with what I fall asleep reading.

Woody Hard Leg

Written by Katrin Sadigh, MD, WCHN assigned faculty for program development at Zimbabwe University

Color ascends her plump form in layers—from the wide double skirt up to the chemise beneath the long sleeve blouse beneath the heavy rain jacket, up to the hat which she took off before sitting down in the chair. Despite the layers, she cannot hide her legs, the swollen, thickened skin, what we soon learn to be described clinically as “woody hard.” The shape of her sandals is imprinted on the tops of her feet. She tries to tuck her feet under the hem of the billowing skirts, but my eyes have already spotted the growth on her left lower leg. From the boggy epidermis, it rises first as skin-colored specks with sheen, resembling dewdrops.

The Art of the Physical Exam is Alive in Zimbabwe

Written by Herman Sequeira, M.D., Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Fellow at Norwalk Hospital

I was thrilled to participate in the global health elective in Zimbabwe this past July. Having grown up in Kenya, my prior global health experience had primarily been in that region. In some respects, Zimbabwe is not different from other African countries. Its people have tolerated rigged elections, hyperinflation, corruption, collapse in tourism, exploitation from the West and, as a result, lack resources in their medical system.

Everlasting Hope

Written by Aparna Oltikar, M.D., Chairwoman of the Department of Medicine, Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, Western Connecticut Health Network

Zimbabweans have the unusual custom of naming their children after important events or emotions they experienced at the time of the child’s birth. In 2004, for example, when the swimmer Kirsty Leigh Coventry represented Zimbabwe in the Athens Olympic Games, a great many newborns were named “Backstroke,” denoting the event which won her a gold medal. A young waitress I met at the Victoria Falls Hotel explained that her name was “Happiness” because this is what her parents had felt when, after many years of trying to have children, she was born. Things were decidedly different when her youngest brother – the last of seven children – was born unexpectedly many years later. His name was Hardship.