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6th Aug

2014

The medical elective is undoubtedly the highlight of the medical student’s academic calendar. It was certainly something I’d been looking forward to from the moment I was accepted into Sydney University. Sub-Saharan African had always been somewhere I had yearned to explore, so it was the number one contender for my elective. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to spend a six week attachment at a hospital in Maua, Kenya.

The hospital, Maua Methodist Hospital, serves a catchment area of close to one million people over a huge area. Being a private hospital, all patients are required to pay for medical services and supplies which unfortunately results in many patients not presenting until the advanced stages of their diseases. Having spent most of my time on the medical ward, I was exposed to some amazing cases of which the vast majority were infective disease related. HIV, tuberculosis, meningitis, hepatitis, and rheumatic heart disease were some of the most common presenting illnesses, but I was also able to witness rare diseases such as tetanus and rabies encephalitis. With a keen interest in toxicology, I was also privileged to assist in the management of organophosphate and paraquat poisoning, both of which are extremely uncommon in Australia. One of the most rewarding experiences was realising how lucky we are to live in Australia – life was fragile in Maua and death at a young age was far too common (reflected by an average life expectancy of 49 years in Maua province).

Obviously no trip to Africa is complete without experiencing this amazing continent outside of a hospital and I was fortunate enough to go on numerous safaris, climb Mount Kenya, swim in the Indian Ocean, and hike through the Ethiopian highlands.

I am indebted to the Nepean Medical Association for assisting me in making it to Africa for my elective. It truly was a life-changing experience and the support provided by the NMA made it possible.

Alex HomlesAlex Homles

Student Scholarship Information

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