Volunteer Review: Jeff K., Medicine in Nepal
My name is Jeff K. and I am a student at the University of Arizona, studying Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics, Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Physiology. My goal is to attend medical school and eventually become a traveling doctor in Asia, which is why I chose to volunteer in a hospital in Nepal.
I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at Dr. Iwamura Memorial Hospital and Research Centre in Sallaghari, Nepal this summer with Projects Abroad.
Five days a week, I would commute Nepali-style in a decrepit bus, 40 minutes to the hospital. I began each day by going to the emergency ward, consisting of four beds and an examination table, to see how I could be of help there. After I had finished there, I moved on to sit in on consultations, and by the end of my trip I had worked with a Cardiologist, an Internist, an Orthopedic Surgeon, and an Obstetrician/Gynecologist. I was also able to assist the Anesthesiologist during a hysterectomy. Most of the cases we dealt with during ward rounds were COPD, UTI, and hypertension, but I also saw ailments that aren't very common in the Western world, such as duberytrens contraction, malaria, and tuberculosis.
I learned the most from the Orthopedic Surgeon, who actually worked full-time as the Head of Orthopedic Surgery at NORVIC, the only internationally-recognized hospital in Nepal. Dr. Prajwal Man Shrestha taught my fellow volunteer and I about epicondylitis, plantar and palmar fasciitis, examination technique, and anything else we could think to ask him. He even got us to try and diagnose patients based on their facial expressions and gestures because none of the patients spoke English. It turned out the diagnoses we proposed were accurate the majority of the time!
Aside from the medical experience, I learned about Nepali culture. I lived with four other volunteers at the home of a Newari couple in Banepa. English could only be used minimally, and I can speak more Nepali now than I had thought I would need. My host family traditionally worked with silver, and they continue to produce beautiful ritual ornaments. Damoda, my host dad, went to school to be a Physiotherapist and now works for HRDC, a free pediatric clinic funded mainly by the American Himalayan Foundation. He spoke English fluently and took me for a tour of the clinic, where I witnessed some of the most gruesome conditions I had ever seen, including cobra bites, clubfeet, fractures requiring external fixtures, and some conditions I can’t even begin to describe!
Back to Nepal itself; I was surprised at the dirt everywhere, disregard for public property and desperation of some locals. I had been to Burma, Laos, and Thailand before, but Nepal was a whole new level of human struggle for me to observe. There were knock-off brand-name goods, salespeople yelling at you to come inside just for a look and maimed beggars on the streets, but none of that was new to me.
I still haven't come to an answer for why Nepal seemed so different and worse off than other third world encounters I've had, but my experiences there are valuable beyond words. I encourage everybody to get out into the world, you will learn not only to appreciate what the Western world has, but also how you can make a difference.
Personally, I know that I want to become a traveling doctor in Asia, and my time in Nepal with Projects Abroad has further confirmed that conviction in me.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.