Koret Fellowship Program
Biology major, class of 2019
My medical trip experience to Cambodia during summer 2017 was an unforgettable experience. I was able to learn about the culture in Cambodia and how the health care system works there. Growing up in the United States, I have always been able to access necessities such as clean water and healthcare. On our clinic days in Cambodia, we traveled to different villages out in the countryside and set up mobile clinics. The mobile clinics included patient intake, vitals, shadowing, and pharmacy stations where we were able to take part in a different station every clinic day. In the mobile clinics, we learned a lot about how healthcare is very hard for villagers to access. In Cambodia, hospitals are located in the cities and are not very accessible to villagers. The villagers would have to travel an hour to the city and many do not have transportation to get there, while many also do not have the time during the day to go visit the clinic because of work. Moreover, government-run hospitals, which were free for people to come and get check ups, are not hospitable; thus, many are afraid to go there for medical needs. Reasons such as transportation, work, and unwelcoming of government-run hospitals factors into why people don’t go to the doctors to get check ups. When we set up mobile clinics in the villages, many villagers came to see the clinic to see the doctor because the staff was very friendly and caring.
The clinic rotations were fun and I learned a lot from each of the different stations. On the first day, I worked in pharmacy and in the beginning I was very baffled by the amount of different medications there are. However, after seeing that certain medications would be prescribed by the doctors over and over, I had learned that the villagers had common diagnoses and thus many of the medications that were prescribed were common. Working in pharmacy allowed me to learn what common medications are used to treat common problems such as omeprazole that is used to treat gastritis. The next station that I worked at was to shadow the doctor and observe what they did when they see a patient. We were allowed to act as a scribe and write down what medications and the amount that was prescribed by the doctor. It was amazing to have the opportunity to sit besides the doctor and work along with them. Having the opportunity to check the patient’s blood pressure and using a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s heart or lungs was amazing hands on experience. The next two clinic stations included patient intake and vitals where we had to work with a translator to take down information from the patients such as name, age, number of family members, and their medical history and also take their vitals. These two stations allowed us to interact with the patients directly. Working in vitals was challenging for me because I had never taken someone’s heart rate, respiration rate, blood glucose level and blood pressure before. This station was the most rewarding because it was hands on and we were allowed the opportunity to take patients’ vitals under the supervision of the nurses.
Having the opportunity to travel to Cambodia this summer has had a big impact on me. I learned a lot about myself, my passions, and what I want to certainly pursue in the future. Being able to participate in mobile clinics has allowed me to see how doctors and nurses work together to help bring differences in people’s lives. I want to be able to do the same as the doctors and nurses when I grow up and make change in the healthcare world. I believe that healthcare should be a fundamental right that all people should have access to regardless of socioeconomic class and should be easily accessible in people’s lives. This trip has also impacted me to break out of the bubble that I have been in such as always staying at home and going to school. Being able to travel to another country and learning beyond the classroom was a very rewarding experience. Learning about the Khmer culture and seeing the different lifestyle they have, has allowed me to see how culture is different however, problems such as access to healthcare is a universal problem. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel and gain hands on healthcare experience in Cambodia. My experience to Cambodia this summer has allowed me to connect deeper to my passion of wanting to bring change in healthcare and has made me certain that I want to pursue a future career in medicine.