Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part I

Question: Why have I decided to create a healthcare expedition?

Answer: Because I believe I can be of more value, to the people who need it.

According to UpToDate’s article on ‘Screening for cervical cancer in resource-limited settings’, cervical cancer is the most common malignancy among women in the developing world, where more than 85% of worldwide cervical cancer deaths occur.

I have been in regular contact with the community hospital in Bwindi, who have expressed wishes for some equipment…including:

-A colposcope-a special magnifying device used to look at the cervix. If part of the organ is found to be abnormal, a medical professional can take a tissue sample and send it for analysis

-and a cryotherapy machine, used to treat the early stages of cancer.

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It would be fantastic to get this equipment for the hospital. It could really save so many lives, what more value can you provide? But I thought to myself, how on earth can I get it? I’m only a GP trainee and I don’t really have any connections with the gynaecology department, or any medical equipment stores. So I decided to take the first step…I needed to make the connections. I went on our hospital trust’s website, searched for the list of consultants, word searched ‘colposcop'(in the hope of finding either colposcopist/colposcopy/colposcope) and a list of 3 colposcopists appeared. I emailed them all, appealing to them for advice and direction, about how to get this equipment.

I didn’t hear anything for almost two weeks. And at the point of almost giving up on them, I came home from work and checked my emails, only this time to find a reply. And then two. And then a chain. My enquiry was passed onto other gynaecology colleagues and the general manager of the gynaecology department, all absolutely pointing me in the right direction(!)

My next steps are:

  1. To get in touch with the medical equipment stores for quotations.
  2. To organise fund-raising for the equipment

It just goes to show, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If people can, they will most probably go out of their way to help you. And if they can’t, what have you got to lose? You did your bit by asking.

My Reflection

As part of our GP training programme, we attend weekly teaching sessions. This comprises of either a lecture given by a consultant, or a presentation given by a GP trainee. Today I was the plucky trainee, scheduled to present to my group of other junior doctors.

I reflected on the last time I presented at teaching. It was on dementia, a topic I naturally couldn’t put a light twist to. Though I felt it went reasonably well, it could have been better. I wasn’t satisfied with it. I was much more nervous back then and everybody knew it, just by the tone of my voice. When I get nervous I speak fast, and when I speak fast I finish too early. So on this occasion I thought to myself…what can I do this time to better present my teaching. Then I realised, pace myself.

Was I nervous this time? Well yes, most definitely at the beginning. Don’t forget, you’re allowed to be, but don’t show it. If I can’t hear myself get nervous, I can go slower. I found that by doing this, I can maintain my ‘cool’, kept a good rapport with my colleagues and even make bold attempts at making some comical twists, all very well received (!) Entrepreneur Jason Nazar has said that when you’re presenting, you’re not the one that has to be nervous, you can put the onus on your audience. I experimented with this notion, and by god it worked! In addition to my quiz, I was testing my colleagues by asking open questions to them all, and suddenly I wasn’t the nervous one! The other gold dust tip which I picked up upon, only whilst presenting, was to be honest. Just be real. I found that by doing this alone, the audience were more intrigued in the things I was saying. They weren’t afraid to ask me questions or seek advice. They could open up more.

This would be my first time at teaching that others personally came up to me and expressed how good it was. That has never happened before, so I must have done something right! But why did I decide to reflect in the end about some presentation? Well the real reason why I wanted to share this  is to utilise this as an example of why we should reflect. I don’t mean just for work, but for life. Yes it makes us better in the things we do, but it can also make us better people.

How do you define old age?

Yesterday my consultant decided to take us out for drinks after work, our first social gathering two months into this job. I’m not usually the type of person who attends every work-related social event. Not only do I like to keep my personal life separate from my job, but I choose not to maintain false pretenses with people who I genuinely think are unfriendly and nasty. I can also get somewhat insecure and uncomfortable when being my ‘normal crazy self’, in front of the people I work with.  However on this occasion, I had no real reason not to attend. Everyone in my team is lovely and I didn’t really have any other plans.

We took a 5 minute walk to a pub my work friends suggested..and NEWSFLASH: I get extremely uncomfortable in pubs! I don’t really know what it is about them, it might be that I’d never really hung out in pubs in uni, or I find that people stare at me constantly (that could be me being paranoid), but I’m totally fine in bars and clubs…it makes no sense!

After overcoming what sounded like a ‘fear’ of ordering a drink (that’s the other thing, I NEVER know what to order), we made our way outdoors to join the others. From then on I think things went smoothly. I seemed to be making good conversation, I opened up a little bit more, and I managed to get some laughs…hopefully good ones!

My consultant asked me an interesting question… ‘How do you define old age?’

I did think about it, but unfortunately I feel the one drink I had may have gone straight to my head, and I answered ’35(!)’. Yes it was too late, I had already said it. Fortunately I received a rather friendly outburst of laughs from my consultant and the other junior doctors, so I just hoped my rather immature answer went down well.

This morning I asked my boyfriend what my consultant had asked me last night. We pondered about it for a bit, and we (mainly he) came up with this:

‘A person who hasn’t reached the goals they have set, at the age they set it’. (Subconsciously my answer was 35).

And that was it, the perfect answer to a big question.

Keep the momentum

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Following a stressful few weeks, including some numerous night shifts and a bout of gastroenteritis, I must say it’s good to get back on track again. I feel like I lost myself a little bit, lost my bearings and almost lost my way. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I chose to blog, it keeps me on track with what I need to do, and more importantly, it makes me accountable for the things I do.

My boyfriend asked me a very interesting question a few days ago..

‘If you were told you had 10 years to live, what would you do?’

I thought hard about it, 10 years is a long time. You could get a fair amount of stuff done in 10 years. I think I responded by saying that I would ‘make a visit to countries across the world’.

And then he responded, ‘well why can’t you do that now?’

And then it dawned upon me, why the hell not? There isn’t really anything stopping me, if I really put my mind to it and if I keep focus. From now on, I will try extra hard to keep the momentum.