On June 29, 2018, medical students Katherine Callahan ’21 and
Christina Dawson ’21 arrived in Kampala, Uganda, not quite
sure what to expect. They returned to Vermont six weeks later
with a deeper understanding of medicine across cultures, and
what it means to be a physician.
In their weekly reflections, they write
about feeling lost, frustrated, and out of place. They worry about
their lack of medical knowledge, and question their ability to help
patients in any meaningful way. As they work through the learning
curve and the inevitable frustrations, they also forge deep bonds
with patients and providers at St. Stephen’s Hospital. They witness
births, and also their first patient deaths. They care for patients at a
rehabilitation home, help at an anti-retroviral clinic for HIV patients,
and scrub in on surgeries.
Perhaps most importantly, they gain from the Ugandan
physicians and healthcare providers they work with a framework
to better understand healthcare on a global scale. They witness
resourcefulness and commitment in the hospital wards and in the
community on a daily basis, while at the same time they experience
the systemic challenges and socioeconomic inequalities that impact
patients’ and providers’ lives. Although there are no easy answers,
students come home ready to advocate for patients on a global scale.
Key to the success of the global health program is the integration of
faculty alongside students: Mariah McNamara, M.D., an emergency
medicine physician and assistant professor of surgery at the Larner
College of Medicine, accompanied students for the summer rotation,
as did Paul Bachman, M.D., a geriatrician at clinical partner Hudson
Headwaters Health Network. Sharon Sukhdeo, M.D., a resident at
Norwalk Hospital, also participated in the trip.