University of Minnesota Medical Students reaching out to Ugandan villages through Medical Camps
“The main diseases we treated were malaria, peptic ulcer disease, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease, malnutrition, osteoarthritis, and back pain and body aches. For many that live in this rural region of Uganda, there is not ready access to healthcare, so they were happy to receive convenient treatment,” says one of the medical students.
For three weeks in August of 2012, a group of nine students from the University of Minnesota Medical School volunteered their time at the Uganda Rural Fund organization located just outside of Kyetume, 30 km West of Masaka, Uganda. Having just finished our first year of medical school, we were all excited to put our knowledge to use through putting on medical camps, training village health workers, and educating students in surrounding villages.
The first medical camp was held here at Hope Academy on July 28th. We began setting up the camp around 8:30 am, putting up tents and setting up the lab. Medical, dental, and nursing students from both Kampala and England also joined us, along with Doctor Sherif, the head of health for the southern region of Uganda. We started seeing patients around 9 am, and finished with our last patient at 6 pm. We saw around 300 patients, with ages ranging from a few months to over 85. We set up stations for the patients to move throughout the camp starting with registration, moving to intake, and then to the doctor or straight to the lab. Lastly patients would come to the pharmacy and check out. While patients were waiting for intake, we organized health education talks on syphilis, malaria, and family planning. The dental student handed out oral hygiene supplies that had been donated by Boynton Health services at the University of Minnesota. We also received medical supply donations from HERO, located in Fargo, North Dakota.
The main diseases we treated were malaria, peptic ulcer disease, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease, malnutrition, osteoarthritis, and back pain and body aches. For many that live in this rural region of Uganda, there is not ready access to healthcare, so they were happy to receive convenient treatment.
Dr. Sherif diagnosed an older woman, probably in her late 60s or early 70s, with myopia, or loss of vision. Luckily, URF happened to have a small collection of reading glasses that had been previously donated. The lady tried on a few pairs. She happened to find the perfect pair for her prescription, and was able to read the text in front of her.
Working in lab was especially challenging for us volunteers. One of our routing lab tests was for malaria, and the test involved drawing a drop of blood via finger pricking. It often became difficult to draw a full drop of blood, and sometimes multiple pricks were needed. One child, a 3-year-old, threw a tantrum upon entering the lab, making it nearly impossible to get the single drop of blood needed. After three pricks, and with help from her mother as well as multiple volunteers, we finally got enough blood to successfully complete her malaria test.
The second camp was in Kalagala. The community was able to provide us with the local school to set up stations for our medical camp. It was nice have separate rooms for organization, to cut down on crowding and make flow more efficient. We started a bit later in the day than our first medical camp, as we had to transport all of our supplies. Patients had been lining up since 8 am that morning, but unfortunately we weren’t able to start treating them until 11 am. Even though we had only one doctor, Dr. Sharif, we still were able to see over 300 patients that day. We also added typhoid, syphilis and HIV testing to our lab selection. For many of us, it was our first time drawing venous blood, and our patients were extremely kind and patient. It was encouraging and exciting to successfully draw blood and treat patients.
Many patients were under 8 years old, and similar to in the US, the younger children were very nervous about going to the doctor. Some were even terrified of getting their temperature taken. One child presented with a high fever and lab testing revealed that he was doubly infected with two different species of malaria.
We had a quick lunch break, eating delicious local food consisting of rice, beans, matooke (plaintain mash), meat, and pineapple. We saw all the patients who came for treatment, and filled prescriptions until 8pm. We were definitely wiped out by the end.
Our third and final medical camp will be this coming Saturday at Bijaba. We again expect a great turnout, and we anticipate a larger Muslim community to come for treatment.
Uganda cares was also present at our medical camps to provide free HIV testing and counseling.