I’m having a hard time believing that my fieldwork in Tanzania is almost over. I’ve had an incredible experience, although I have to admit it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I set a lot of personal growth goals for my time in Tanzania, and as I coming to the end of my sixth week on this amazing continent, I want to share some exciting news: I want to be a doctor someday. I’m certain of this now. For many months, questions of “when are you taking the MCAT? Have you started your personal statement or taken mammalian physiology yet?” have been dodged with the “I’m taking a gap year!” answer. But after this experience, I feel that I have more insight into my long-term career, and this feels amazing.
I came in expecting to be swayed towards a career in public health, but this preconceived notion, along with all of the other ones I came in with, turned out to be false. After six weeks here, I really see the value in pursuing a medical degree to accompany a masters in public health. There is a specific moment that stands out in my mind that made me realize I want to pursue medicine and become a physician. I was observing in the Reproductive Health and Child clinic in Mkonze, watching the MUHAS nursing students and health center staff give young Tanzanians their first vaccines. I remember thinking to myself that if I’m not legally trained to administer a vaccine to a child in ten years; I’m going to be upset with myself. It’s a simple thought, butI now know want to be on both sides of the clinic doors: encouraging prevention and best practices on one hand but treating people directly as well. I also felt these feelings at Muhimbili, feeling helpless in the burn ward as children screamed in agony getting their dressings changed, and I don’t want to feel that way as a professional. I felt this way again, talking to Dr. Wambura at the under five clinic in Dar es Salaam. I can totally envision myself working in this type of small, focused, community clinic. Lastly, many years down the road when I’m a practicing medicine, I want to remember all that the MUHAS nursing students taught me about positive patient interaction. I was so impressed with how kind, patient, and caring they were with all the expecting mothers and small children they interacted with.
It’s so unlike me to say this, but I’m really going to miss the slower pace of life here. I’m going to miss the rooftop of our hostel where I’ve caught so many sunsets and sunrises and done countless sun salutations. I’m going to miss reflecting with my cohort, sitting around tables listening to old music, eating chips and dips at the Mexican restaurant also on the roof of our hostel. I’m leaving a piece of my heart in Tanzania, but I’m beyond excited to return to Hekima Place in Kenya on Saturday. More soon!