These last 5 weeks, ITFC had some special residents: 6 students of Mbarara University’s Department of Community Health were based at the Institute for their ‘Community Placement’ and worked with Ruhija’s Health Centre III. Yesterday they gave their final presentation at ITFC and said goodbye. We have enjoyed their company, enthusiasm and curiosity!
The team of six came from different medical education programs taught at MUST: Hashaka Alex and Anyindo Benson are 4th year students of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Odongokara George is a 4th year Bachelor’s student of Nursing Science Completion and Ariaka Herbert, Takusewanya Moureen and Nimanya Alice Stellah are 5th year Bachelor’s students of Medicine and Surgery.
Here they are: (f.l.t.r.) George, Benson, Stellah, Alex, Moureen and Herbert
The students’ stay in Ruhija is called a ‘Leadership Development Project’, meant to expose medical students to the reality of community health work in a remote rural location, working as a team and taking up a challenge together. They started with assessing the status of health care in Ruhija, by spending time in the Health Centre and going around the community talking to people and looking at the availability of latrines and handwashing facilities. After about 2 weeks they listed what they saw as the main challenges and came up with a little project for improvement.
The Ruhija HC-III mostly receives patients with respiratory tract infections and allergies, as well as those for AnteNatal Care (ANC). The team observed that few couples come for HIV testing, that many households had no hand washing facilities near latrines, that people stock drugs (fearing shortage when they need it) and thus deplete supplies and waste a lot, that the uptake of family planning is low and that only 20% of women attending ANC come to the Health Centre for delivery.
The students presenting the findings of their project to ITFC staff. Unfortunately the staff of the Health Centre and the Subcounty were missing.
The team took up that latest problem as their challenge: how to increase the percentage of women delivering in the Health Centre rather than at home.They organised sensitisation of ANC patients, subcounty staff and church goers to convince people of the importance of delivering in a safe environment.
All six said they had really enjoyed their stay in Ruhija, at ITFC particularly: “We were told we were placed at ITFC in a place ‘Buhija’ (sic) no-one had never heard of and arrived trembling what conditions we would find. We think we were so lucky, because staying at ITFC was very comfortable and we were made to feel at home from the first day”. June was quite cold, though, and the students were often seen all covered up in woolen hats and thick coats. “But then again, walking those steep slopes around here made us feel very warm”, said Herbert.
We look forward to receiving more such medical student teams from MUST! We found them very interested in our work too, with many questions asked about gorillas and working with communities in particular. For our staff, the students were a welcome enrichment of their social life!