Public Health in Tanzania

March 7, 2018

by Laney Jones, C'19

During my time in Tanzania, I was immersed in a beautiful culture and community. I fell in love with my new home, connecting deeply with several community members, making my service in the clinic even more meaningful. I lived with a host family in central Arusha. My classes focused on human rights and community organizing, public health especially in the area of HIV, and learning more about Tanzania’s history and society. These classes were taught in a small room behind a church in my neighborhood. It was a wonderful 15 minute walk from my house along streets bursting with life. There was never a dull moment - the streets were full of people of all ages, countless chickens, dogs, and goats occasionally wandering around. Everything was surrounded by beautiful tropical plants that were blooming and dazzling with bright colors.

Part of my IPSL program was getting to work with a service site. I volunteered in Afyamax medical clinic two days a week and learned more in those few incredible months than I can explain. Afyamax is a small diagnostics clinic tucked a little ways back from the main street of town. Yet it still seemed to always be bustling with life. Diagnostics is one of the areas where the public government hospitals fall short in providing for the community. Afyamax receives many patients seeking tests on orders from the hospitals. The staff who work in this clinic were like a family to one another and they welcomed me with open arms. They taught me how to work in each department, but I spent most of my time in the laboratory and the radiology room. In the diagnostics lab I learned how to run blood work, urinary tests, look at samples under the microscope, and perform rapid blood tests for HIV and malaria. The radiology room had one of the only CT scanners in the surrounding area and was an essential piece of the clinic. They also allowed me to assist with EKGs and ultrasounds. The doctors, nurses, and lab technicians were happy to share their knowledge. They gave me the encouragement and support I needed to learn and thrive in this new environment.

The power went out on a regular basis in Arusha. Many weeks it was out for several days or at least 8 hours of the day. It taught me to have patience with the things that are out of my control, but it also sparked many conversations with the clinic staff about areas in which they would like to serve their community better. They struggle with the unreliable electricity as it is government controlled and there is no warning about when it will be on or off. Most of their work relies on machines, therefore they often have to turn away patients or reschedule. Some days they stay with patients in the waiting room until 10 or 11 pm when the power returns to be able to eventually perform these essential diagnostic tests. They are currently trying to save money to purchase a generator. It is very expensive but would drastically improve their ability to serve and meet the needs of the community.

I was very interested in public health before going abroad, but my time in Tanzania allowed me to pursue my passions and dive further into the field that I have grown to love. It is challenging and always changing, yet it is also so vital. Health care systems around the world are drastically different and being able to serve in a clinic in such a unique environment allowed me to gain new perspectives and ideas about what healthcare is and could be.

Laney participated in the IPSL Tanzania program.

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