Lewis Mundell from the University of Dundee in Scotland recently came to Magbenteh Community Hospital as a 5th year medical student to carry out a medical elective placement.
Lewis shared his experience with us: “Having been to Sierra Leone in 2011 and 2012 and visiting Magbenteh Community Hospital before attending Medical School, the hospital was an obvious first choice for my Medical Elective. I would have 8 weeks in a completely different medical and cultural environment. But also, as I had been here before, would not completely be a ‘fish out of water’. As such, this was both a unique and fortunate opportunity I could not pass up.
Being at Magbenteh and working under the supervision of Doctors and CHOs, I have been given the opportunity to experience and practice medicine in a low resource setting and overcome the challenges that this presents. I have seen a wide variety of cases from the most common, Malaria, to the most rare – dextrocardia (a 1 in 10,000 condition). In the future I hope to become a GP. These days, people are traveling more and more to tropical regions, and therefore it is good to have an awareness of tropical diseases to offer education before patients travel but also they may return with a tropical illness. Also learning about the use of ‘Country Medicine’ is akin to Homeopathy which may work for some conditions but may also cause significant harm.
I have also been able to experience the rich culture this country has to offer by attending weddings, other social gatherings and playing football matches. I have also felt extremely welcome outside of work and have been blessed to be part of the community within the accommodation.
Going home, I know how lucky we are in the UK to have the NHS, a compulsory healthcare system. Being able to see a Doctor when you feel ill and having all the resources available to deal with the problems is something never to be undervalued.
Furthermore, a UK concept called ‘Realistic Medicine’ – the idea that health outcomes could be better served by improving the standard of living than by drugs or testing – is so visible in Sierra Leone. If people here had clean water, food, shelter and a mosquito net, the effect would be greater than any other medical intervention. Unfortunately, this is not easy to achieve.
I also take home the perspective that travel offers of how lucky I am in all aspects of my life comparable to people living in Sierra Leone. This is something I hope will stay with me for the rest of my life and allow me to make the most of the opportunities I have been given.”
I would definitely recommend Sierra Leone, Makeni and Magbenteh Community Hospital as an Medical Elective destination. You will learn how to cope without even the most basic of investigations. Moreover, you will achieve great personal grounding in a place where people really do have nothing.