Reflections by Sandy Aikara


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I found this international elective experience in Kenya to be truly amazing and life changing. From the moment I read about this opportunity in my email, I knew this was something that I wanted/had to do! I knew the experience was going to change me as an individual and as an up and coming doctor. The reason why I wanted to participate in this medical missions trip was to gain valuable experience and also see the face of medicine in a new light. Living in the States, it is easy to become complacent and dissociate the medical experience from the personal experience as well as ignore the outside world and struggles; part of me wanted to break from that. As a child, I had dreams of going out and doing big things in the world and making a difference. This trip felt like just the beginning of my learning experience and adventures.

During our layover in Amsterdam, we were given some more information outside of the webinars that we viewed during the three weeks prior to our trip. At that time, we were told a little bit more of what was expected of us and how we, the students, would be taking a very active role with our patients by deciding the diagnoses and treatment plans for the patients we saw. At that point, it felt somewhat intimidating since during rotations there was always that blanket of protection that someone would be double checking everything that we did. It was intimidating to think of myself as a real doctor but it was a realization that had to come someday....after all this is what being a health care professional is all about...making decisions, treating patients, and preventing further sickness and disease.
After going through the entire experience, I am truly amazed at everything that was accomplished. Words cannot even begin to describe the blessing it was to work in Kenya. We saw over 2,000 patients in six clinic days! We were challenged to think critically and within our means of supplies and medications. If there was ever any doubt in our minds, we had the support and guidance of our professors and doctors on the team. I felt the drive within myself to want to see and help as many people as I could because they had waited months to meet us. I will never forget those that touched my heart with their innocence, compassion, and struggle. The medical and personal aspects were intertwining as I realized the significance of the environment that many of my patients were coming from. I started this trip with a mixture of apprehension, excitement, and uncertainty with what was going to happen, but I left with a knowledge that will stick with me forever. I was made stronger as an individual and a doctor. I learned the importance of making a decision and sticking to it as well as using whatever resources I had available to care for my patients. Before this experience, I was like a wobbly child that constantly found comfort in her mother's watchful eye; now, I am slowly learning to stand strong on my own two feet and make decisions based on my own knowledge.