Going to Zimbabwe was one of the most impactful experiences I have had in my college career. The trip brought nearly complete cultural immersion while also maintaining a specific service objective. I was fortunate enough to have had an extensive academic background to support our goals during the trip. As a Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) major, many of my classes have been focused around public health. The knowledge gained in these classes was directly related to my experience in Zimbabwe, and the work I did contextualized my coursework in the real world making for an amazing learning opportunity. Furthermore, I am on the pre-med track, and the skills gained on this trip have been invaluable to my career goal of becoming a doctor.
Currently, my future educational goal is getting into medical school. I hope to one day pursue a career in pediatrics and hopefully specialize in surgery. Through this trip, I learned so much about medical practice in a country with limited resources, such as the doctors' ability to improvise with the resources they have to provide the best care they can to their patients. I also noticed the unique challenges of practicing medicine in rural areas of Zimbabwe like the impact of various spiritual beliefs on the delivery of medicine, causing ill patients to go to traditional healers for help before coming to trained doctors. Despite the adversity, I was humbled and amazed by the hard work and dedication of the healthcare workers in Zimbabwe to their profession.
I am grateful for the opportunity of going on this trip and being exposed to several aspects of the healthcare system in Zimbabwe. While in Harare, our group was given a chance to sit in with doctors while they were diagnosing patients. The doctors did a phenomenal job of breaking down what they look for when diagnosing patients. I learned a lot about various disabilities that may occur due to injury during birth, genetic problems, and even malnutrition. I was disheartened to learn that many of these disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, would be less likely to occur had these children been born in the United States. While at Harare Public Hospital, we shadowed doctors while they did their rounds in the pediatric ward, and this allowed me to gain a better understanding of the context for, and treatment of, the most ill infants.
While working at Chidamoyo Hospital, I was blessed with the opportunity to witness two caesarean section surgeries. I had the chance to work with the HPV vaccination clinic and visit six rural schools and spend time with the children there. I also had the pleasure of working with the HIV team seeking family members of patients at Chidamoyo Hospital who tested positive for HIV to offer them guidance and assistance, and convince them to get tested as well.
The experience I gained in confronting public health challenges and complex medical issues was invaluable. The trip confirmed my primary personal goal in life to travel more often to learn about different cultures, societies, and people. The scholarship I received made my participation in the College of ACES study abroad trip to Zimbabwe this summer possible, and helped me work toward achieving my goals while gaining valuable professional experience. This study abroad program is directly related to my academic and career goal of becoming a doctor, and I have never been more inspired, motivated, and committed to accomplishing this goal.
The experience I gained on this trip has helped me appreciate the way medicine is practiced in our society, but has also driven my passion for advancing medicine in underprivileged communities. It helped me realize my passion for volunteering in places with a great need for medical professionals and helped me gain a more nuanced perspective of the third world medical setting. I plan on returning to Zimbabwe, and Chidamoyo Hospital, to build upon this incredible experience and pay it forward.