This summer, I worked for a non-profit organization in Karatu, Tanzania called FAME (Foundation for African Medicine and Education). Their mission is to improve the quality and accessibility of medical care in rural Tanzania and they provide patient-centered, rather than profit-oriented care to all, even those who cannot afford it. I was given the opportunity to shadow doctors in the hospital’s inpatient, outpatient, and maternity wards. Often, I was able to assist the medical team in minor procedures and surgeries as they were more than willing to teach me and I was eager to learn from them. Aside from working in the hospital, I created an oral hygiene program for primary students and presented the program at many schools in the region. It involved teaching children how to maintain proper oral hygiene and I provided students with toothbrushes I made from a local “toothbrush tree” and taught them how to make one themselves so they had a sustainable way to practice these techniques.
This experience has been eye-opening. I worked with Tanzanian and Maasai patients every day and through this work I was able to develop a greater sense of humanity and empathy for others. I found through my time here that my purpose in life is to serve the poorest of the poor throughout the world, because no one deserves to be deprived of basic human needs such as quality health care simply because they cannot afford it or if it is unavailable. I will return to Colgate with an enhanced worldview.
In general, I believe it is incredibly important and valuable to venture out into the world and experience foreign cultures. By immersing myself within Tanzanian culture and learning Swahili, my experience working at the hospital was greatly enhanced. Apart from the cultural benefits of working at FAME, I was able to witness and assist with many things in the hospital that would not be possible for undergraduates in a pre-med internship in the U.S.