Emergency Medicine resident's reflection from Masindi, Uganda: Kyle Embertson

Here I went, into the depths of Uganda. A place I had never been and had heard very little about. The project goal boiled down to creating a curriculum for our medical students who visit One World Health Masindi Kitara Medical Center (MKMC) with the goal of eventually building a sustainable shared curriculum that can be utilized by both the visiting medical students and also by the medical officers and other staff at MKMC. The main goal was building the curriculum.

Prior to my time in Uganda, I had recently attended an educational leadership conference and they stressed the importance of making curriculums as relevant and hands on to the people using the curriculum as possible. So I set out about the best way to do that. One great way was to dig in clinically and see what types of cases they see, and what their hospital environment was like. In order to do that I participated in daily rounds with the medical officers and doctors. Getting to know the diseases, the patients, and the providers proved invaluable as we discussed what would be most effective in a truncated curriculum.

Participating in patient care also gave me the opportunity to help in ways that no one else at the hospital was able to. I was called in the middle of the night to ultrasound for a fetal heart rate in a mother who was transferred to our hospital due to prolonged labor. The decision for the doctor hinged on my ultrasound. If there was a heartbeat, he was taking the mother for an emergency C-section right then. If there was no heartbeat, no C-section. I grabbed my gear and sprinted to the labor room. The tearful eyes of the laboring mother looked at me expectantly, pleading with her eyes that I find a live baby. The doctor looked at me, not knowing what the pictures on my screen meant. I nodded. I showed them both the heartbeat. The mother hugged me, and was taken immediately for C-section. I saw mother and child on rounds the next morning and I took care of them until both left the hospital healthy and happy. In all my years of medical training and medical practice, I have never felt like I saved a life like I did that night. 

I was incredibly fortunate during my time there to be surrounded by amazing people. One of the medical officers Robert, basically took me in as a family member. His mother cooked me dinner several nights, and I was invited to social activities with both his friends and his family. Really striving to get to know the community, the reason that we are doing this in the first place, was very humbling and very refreshing. The way that everyone treated me and welcomed me into their hospital and their families gave me even more motivation to create something useful that would give back to them what they had given me.

As is usually the case with experiences like this, I think that I took away a lot more from the experience than I was ever able to give back. Hopefully by laying the groundwork for a constantly developing curriculum and with the continued investment and support by MUSC I have at least started our project on a trajectory to provide sustained education and support to MKMC.