Resident Travel Blog July 15, 2013

This blog documents the medical experiences of our residents as they travel abroad and experience healthcare in different parts of the world.

July 15, 2013 by Brigette Gleason

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The RHD screening project is going well so far. It’s a lot of fun to work with kids (this is probably the first time I’ve been envious of you med-peds people!), and they are quite tolerant of the TTEs. I’m trying to learn to speak some Lugandan so that I can more easily interact with them. Even though English is the official national language, most of the patients at the JCRC don’t speak English—although kids do learn it in school. Also I’ve realized that just because someone knows English, it doesn’t mean they understand what I am saying. English is everywhere in the stores and on the street, but I find that I have to speak slowly and I still get weird looks. Fortunately, the staff at JCRC has been very helpful in translating, as well as doing many other important tasks! I’ve attached some pictures of the lovely JCRC campus and “my” portable sonosite, which is on loan from the US . Bringing it over as a carry-on with a tag that says “Global Health” made me feel legit! It gave me the warm fuzzies…followed by a backache.

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Being at the JCRC has already been a rewarding experience. For one, the staff here is extremely friendly, upbeat, bright, and helpful. Additionally I’ve been able to attend a weekly doctors meeting which involves sitting down with 5-6 young clinicians at JCRC along with a more senior doctor to discuss current patients. Last week some of the cases discussed were a woman with IRIS manifesting as CMV encephalitis; another patient with newly diagnosed HIV and active TB who presented septic and jaundiced but the clinic had no capacity to do any imaging beyond an Xray; and also a young boy with severe anemia with inconclusive lab workup who was able to get a bone marrow biopsy on site. Later in the week there was a meeting to present updates on one of recent clinical trials at the JCRC that was just published in the Lancet and is coming out in the NEJM soon. Essentially the JCRC has been and continues to change international guidelines on treating HIV/AIDS. Pretty awesome.

Apart from medicine, things are going well although I’m still trying to process the reality of being here. I continue to stay busy, which is good but it also gives my brain even more info to try to digest! My roommates and I were invited to an “Introduction” on 7/13, which is a precursor to a wedding. It’s a public event in which the groom-to-be is introduced to the wife-to-be’s family. It was a formal ceremony with about 500 people all in traditional Uganda attire. A co-worker was kind enough to lend us traditional dresses to wear.

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I cannot fully express the extravagance of this event. According to a cousin of the groom who is a surgeon at Mulago, the Introductions and Weddings have been getting more and more elaborate lately as each host tries to out-do the last one (apparently this family was fairly wealthy). The gifts presented included part of a cow and several chickens. The whole affair lasted about 6 hours or so and none of it was in English. It included music, dancing, a huge buffet meal, and honestly I'm not sure what else. As guests, we were each sent home with a bottle of wine as part of our “party favors.”

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