International Health Studies Grant in Action: Training Emergency Care Providers in Rural Uganda

In September 2011, Sushama Saijwani -- at the time, a 3rd year emergency medicine resident at Boston Medical Center --  received a $2,000 grant from the Foundation’s International Health Studies Grant program.  Below is a synopsis of her international experience of February 2012.

International Health StudiesMy purpose in travelling to Karoli Lwanga Hospital in Nyakibale, a rural mountainous area of southwest Uganda, was to conduct bedside teaching for the emergency care providers and also supervise didactics in order to "teach the trainers."

The providers in the ER must care for these patients without any ventilators, airway capability, portable oxygen tanks or radiology services. The hospital has three Ugandan doctors, who are required to practice all specialties from general medicine to pediatric surgery, from trauma surgery to obstetrics.

My goal was to impart knowledge of emergency care, but my work in Uganda proved to be a great personal and professional learning experience. I was suddenly transported from a system that relies on laboratory and imaging diagnostics as the standard of care, to a system with a complete lack of this testing.  I was used to seeing the pathology of excess and now I was seeing the pathology of malnutrition. It was intimidating and yet confidence-building to work in an environment, where your skills are the only available resource.

With each global health experience, I realize how small a fraction of the world’s population lives with good health care and personal security.

My trip to Uganda made me realize that this fraction is so much smaller than I had previously imagined. I hope I was able to make a difference for the emergency care providers in Uganda by imparting knowledge that will hopefully save lives in the emergency room of Karoli Lwanga Hospital and by inspiring them to continue the process of life-long learning to benefit their community.

-- Sushama Saijwani

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