Resident Travel Blog July 9, 2013

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

July 9, 2013 by Brigette Gleason


I’m 4 days into my 12 week international rotation in Kampala, Uganda. Feel free to keep me updated about what I’m missing in Cleveland—or better yet, come visit me. I had the pleasure of spending a 13hr layover in Doha, Qatar, which fortunately included a free hotel stay (the picture below is the view from my room ). Anyone interesting in visiting for the 2022 World Cup? I was in Kampala by the afternoon of July 3rd, and met my 4 flat mates: 3 Russian residents and 1 American MPH student.  So far it has been a whirlwind, as I’ve managed to stay occupied non-stop and still need to unpack my bags! My suitcase must have taken the scenic route to Uganda, but it did arrive (though it was no simple feat to get it) 2 days after I got here.


So to begin with my reason for even being here, which is 2-fold: research and clinical medicine. I’ve been oriented at both locations and am now even more excited about the work I will be doing. The first ½ of my trip I am joining an on-going project through a collaboration with Case, the Uganda Heart Institute, and the Joint Clinic Research Center (JCRC)* in Uganda. I will be screening for Rheumatic Heart Disease in HIV-infected people aged 5-20. I will be performing screening TTEs during regularly scheduled appointments at one of the JCRC clinic sites.  The staff at the newest JCRC in Lubowa gave me a very warm welcome and showed me around their campus, which is beautiful and expansive. They stay quite busy with all of the research they do as well as inpatient and outpatient care. I’m looking forward to getting started! My competency with the screening TTE will hopefully continue to develop…kind of a learn-as-I-go process. Fortunately the echo technicians at UH along with some of our very own cards fellows were kind enough to teach me the basics for a few days. Thank you to all who helped!

The 2nd ½ of my stay in Kampala will be mostly an inpatient wards rotation for 6 weeks at Mulago Hospital, which is well known throughout SE Africa as an excellent teaching hospital. Of course the resources are limited, and this is not the hospital that someone with means would go to. I hope to learn how to practice in an area without all of the labs and tests we’re accustomed to, and also to gain insight into diagnosing and treating tropical diseases that we rarely encounter in the States. There is also an expectation that I share my knowledge of American medicine with the medical students and residents that work at Mulago. It should be very rewarding to interact with the locals here as well as the other foreigners coming from all over the world, each with different perspectives and backgrounds. I’m pretty sure that I will learn as much from my everyday encounters outside of the JCRC and Mulago as I will while working.

My very first night there was a cultural dance/music/comedy show that was highly recommended by locals and foreigners alike. It was AMAZING! I have never before seen so much vigorous hip and booty shaking in my entire life combined. Then Friday night there was an event at the US embassy to celebrate the 4th of July. Then Saturday was an all day white water rafting excursion in Jinja, which was ~2hr bus ride away. Our guide told us that we were on grade 5 rapids just after we survived our first “water fall.” There were 8 rapids over the course of the day and each had a name like “condolences.”  Needless to say I haven’t slept more than a few naps for the past 6 days, so I'm hoping to catch up soon—residency has prepared me well for sleep deprivation. Sunday was my first day to just get out and walk to explore the city. It was refreshing to start to learn the lay of the land and to know where some essentials are: supermarket, bank, internet café, etc.

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I feel as though I could write a book even after just these few days. I have already faced several challenging scenarios. I’m quickly accepting the fact that I have minimal control over my life, so it’s best to relax and be patient and flexible. It is unsettling to feel powerless, especially while in the car with drivers that make New York City seem peaceful. There seem to be no rules to the road. Not to mention the inconsistent access to water and wifi…the bare necessities right?  And not being able to go out alone after dark, and generally not being able to do or eat the things that I usually do. But I expect that I will gain far more than I sacrifice during this journey, and I’m pretty jazzed about what’s to come!  I'll keep you posted-- and you can expect more pictures soon.


* JCRC is an HIV/AIDS care and research institution in Uganda, established in 1990 to respond to and provide a scientific approach to the national HIV/AIDS challenge.