The first in our brand new series, we catch up with past Work the World travellers to see where they are now, and what part their overseas elective played.
First up is Hugh, a GP Registrar in Orange, NSW, Australia, who took his elective with us in January 2012 as a final year med student at The University of NSW. We caught up to chat through his elective experience in Tanzania, how living with the Maasai reaffirmed his passion for community based health care, and how his perspective on his career has changed.
Hey Hugh. Let’s get straight to it. Who are you and what do you currently do?
Hello! I work as a General Practice (GP) Registrar in Orange, NSW, Australia. Orange is about 3.5 hours’ drive west of Sydney and has a population of approx. 40 000 people.
How long ago did you take your WTW placement and where was it?
I participated in a 4-week medical elective in Tanzania in January 2012 while I was a final year student.
Does anything stick out as a particularly memorable part of your experience?
The entire trip was incredible – I’ve never been so thrilled to be taken so far out of my comfort zone! I have fond memories of the people I met and the experience of seeing a broad range of medical conditions that are rarely seen in Australia. I was also able to tick an African Safari and a visit to Zanzibar off my bucket list at the same time.
What did you learn from being so out of your comfort zone?
Perspective. This included how challenging it is to deliver effective healthcare in Tanzania, and how difficult it is for health professionals and patients alike to access adequate health resources.
We also heard you took the Maasai village healthcare experience?
Yes, I did. Along with 3 other Work the World housemates, we spent one week in the village. This was the highlight of my trip. I vividly remember getting up early one morning and going for a walk around the village. The scenery was incredible, the way of life so simple, and everyone seemed so happy. Medically, it was amazing to see that in such a remote community, there was such a successful childhood vaccination program. Participating in many of the special cultural events was surreal, and I still look back on my photos and can’t believe I was actually there!
How would you say the experience has led you to where you are today?
The experience definitely reaffirmed my passion for community based and preventative healthcare. One of the aspects of medicine that I now find the most satisfying is being able to build on the therapeutic relationship over time, and provide continuity of care to patients with a variety of ailments. I am conscious of helping people that may find it difficult to access healthcare, and helping them navigate the health system. Even in Australia, there is a diversity of health outcomes depending on your background.
Would you say working in a rural setting has given you any specific professional skills?
Regional and remote medicine is fantastic. To be successful, you need a broad skill set and willingness to immerse yourself in the local community. Every day is different and brings with it new challenges.
What would you say to someone thinking of taking a medical elective?
I would say stop thinking and just absolutely go for it. Get out of your comfort zone, immerse yourself in a new culture, and experience the diversity in healthcare that exists in developing countries. It will change the way you see your career, life and provide memories that you will never forget.