I can’t believe it has been over a week since I returned home from Uganda. I have actually been avoiding reflecting on this trip because I knew it would be one of the hardest things for me to do. This trip provided so much for me…so much that I’m not sure how to put it into words.
Before leaving for Uganda, I had a conversation with my cousin, Mike. He had previously traveled to Guyana for a service trip so I knew he would provide me with great advice for this adventure I was about to embark on. He told me that he hoped I would find peace and clarity just living in the moment in Uganda. I thought about that my entire trip. I wanted to be present. I wanted to experience every single thing that the country had to offer me… and somewhere along the way, I felt as though I found myself again.
As P4 students, we are all in such an incredibly tough spot when it comes to making a decision for our future careers. I had personally struggled immensely throughout all of pharmacy school to make the decision of where I could see myself working after graduation. While being in Uganda, we worked very closely with pharmacists, physicians, and a variety of patient populations. I learned the importance of adapting to the environment I am in— to learn to think outside of the box and use whatever you have available. Through this experience and through every scenario I was put in, I finally had a moment of clarity where it seemed so obvious as to where I belonged in my future career. It took me leaving the States and traveling to Uganda to find myself, but through every single experience Dr. Manning provided us with, I figured it out.
All I can think of that is left to say is thank you. Thank you to every single person who I met in Uganda who made me feel as if I was home. Thank you to every child (and mother who let me hold her child) for making my heart so happy each day. Thank you to Uganda for being one of the best countries to exist. Thank you 10 million times over to Stacy and Dr. Manning along with the 6 other students I went on this trip with. I can only hope that I have the opportunity again to do something like this. And lastly, thank you to this experience for helping to shape me as a person and a professional.
Hi friends! This is Autumn writing in for a last submission on our Uganda blog 😦
We’ve been home for about 2 weeks now, and I still have trouble realizing that I really did travel to Uganda, and I really did experience so many amazing things. The idea of travelling to Africa was always a dream of mine, and now that it has become reality– I think my brain is still in shock.
Looking back on Uganda, I cannot thank the people we worked with enough for the experience they provided us.
Winnie, our fearless leader in Kampala, has reminded me of how rewarding it can be to take pride in your profession and to keep pushing for enhancing patient care.
David, her husband and our driver through the crazy Kampala streets, was the first to show us the sincere kindness that Ugandans are notoriously known for.
All of the students and staff at Makerere pharmacy school, they are all fighting an uphill battle, but they too take pride in their profession and have showcased the Ugandan resilience and will to power through any tough situation.
Gonsha, the first drug shop owner we met, will always be remembered as someone whose determination and love for her patients has helped her build an amazing business and raport with patients in her community. I hope that her dream of opening a hospital becomes a reality!
Janine, the angelican missionary who was our fearless leader in Masindi, is a true inspiration. She has lived in Uganda for about 10 years now, and she is a force to be reckoned with. Her community outreach projects are extensive, but every single one has had a positive feedback on the communities she reaches. Also, she was an amazing host and gave Mike and I true cultural experiences, like preparing a meal and “preparing chickens”, that I will never forget.
Jimmy, Janine’s right hand man, is an amazing man. He is in his late 70’s and still does everything in his power to help his community. Another amazing inspiration. Everywhere you look, there was Jimmy helping someone.
Arthur, our guide for the safari, an awesome dude. Eternally thankful for helping us to experience the beauty of the Ugandan country side and for making sure we had the best time seeing the majestic wild animals that you only read about in America.
At this point, I think I’m rambling, so I will try to summarize as best I can here. In the end, Uganda has changed so much about the way I think about the world, that I am eternally grateful. I find myself having “Africa moments” and acting or saying something that is appropriate in Africa, but not necessarily in America. I honestly don’t want these moments to end. They are my reminder that I was there, and I experienced these wild & amazing things.
It was an absolute honor to have the opportunity to travel to Uganda and I will be dreaming about the trip until I return. I hope everyone who has followed the blog is inspired to visit the amazing country and witness the magic first hand.
A last note about me, I hate the feeling of life “chapters” ending, so I refuse to think that I will never get to experience Uganda again. So in this spirit…
Thank you for following our blogs hope you are enjoying them as much as we enjoyed our time in Uganda. WOW, time flew, these weeks went by really quickly. After our journey in Uganda, Mike and I traveled to some countries in Europe and London, UK. Now we are at the airport heading to ASHP Midyear conference. For those who are not in the pharmacy world this is where we go and talk to multiple residency programs and try to decide where we want to apply to.
I transferred to Wilkes for pharmacy school and I remember being at the interview and when I asked what type of community outreach Wilkes offers among other things they told me about this APPE and about the trip to Guatemala with our former Dean Graham. The fact that I could go to underprivileged countries and serve them, as part of my academic career, was a deciding factor when choosing a pharmacy school to attend. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I am so thankful for having the best preceptors with us there too.
It is really hard to put this entire experience into words. The emotions I felt throughout the entire trip were unreal, it was truly eye opening. I loved every minute of it, even if I cried, because it was sad just to see somethings. But at the end of the day, I felt very accomplished after providing clinical help to the people of Kampala and Masindi. As you probably know, there is a lack of resources in Uganda, however, they make the best out of it. They improvise with what they have and are very innovative. The doctors and pharmacist were very happy to have us there. They were open to listening to our recommendation as well as taking the time to teach us. This made me feel like was of help.
People are incredibly nice and welcoming, despite the hardships they go through. Every person I met said to me “Are you going to come again next year?” I hope I can someday go again, I hope that once I am financially stable I can go and help them even more. I miss Uganda, I miss the people, and especially I miss the children! I miss hearing kids say “Mzungu” (white traveler) and getting supper happy when we wave back. I’ve actually continued to use this word while traveling in Europe, and I told nearly every person I met what it meant. My dad now calls me that all the time, including on facebook comments, and I love it!
I remember walking down the streets of Masindi and seeing a little boy walking down the streets selling fruits as he kicked a water bottle. He seemed happy doing this. So I joined him, I kicked the water bottle with him and he smiled. It just shows you how important little things are. How impactful a smile can be. Pass it on! I don’t know, this may sound silly to you, but it really made my day, and I hope it made his. Honestly, I did that a lot, I simply tried to make children smile and laugh by making funny faces, playing hide and seek after the presentation to the drug shoppe owners, etc.
If you are a younger Wilkes pharmacy student reading this, I highly recommend you take this APPE. It will change your perspective on life, it will help you become a better human being. It sure did that for me!
Everyone else has been back for two weeks now and Mayi and I are just currently returning to the states. While in Europe, I was reflecting on what differences I see in the different places we travel to, mostly Uganda. There are plenty of differences between our cultures and practice of medicine.
As everyone keeps saying, time moves slower in Uganda. People are not always in a rush like they are in the United States. Unless the timing is known to be important, it is expected that someone may show up late. I remember students coming late to class and no one even payed attention to them walking in, whereas in the United States we would be told not to do that again. I feel the United States would be a bit healthier if we occasionally allowed this practice of loose timings, because we would have less stress.
Another thing I learned from Uganda is how to work with what you have when it comes to medicine, which I feel will be an important skill in the future. There are constantly drug shortages in Uganda, and the Ugandans do their best to give treatment despite that. Sometimes you have to get crafty, but this could lead to other problems that I have seen, such as not finishing antibiotic regimens and increasing antibiotic resistance. Even with the shortages we face in the United States, I consider us VERY lucky that we usually at least have an alternative or two, which is not always the case in other parts of the world.
Family and friendships seem to be much stronger in Uganda versus the United States as well. In most Ugandan hospitals and clinics, nurses do not administer most medications and the responsibility is on the patient’s caretaker relatives. We have seen mothers sleeping on the floor on a mat next to their sick child’s bed or sons and daughters sleeping on the floor next to their grandparents to be there to feed and administer medications to the patient. In the United States, most of us are lucky to have relatives still talk to us, let alone take one hour for a hospital visit. I now see how beneficial having the support of family and friends can improve the treatment of a patient, even if they are not the one administer medications and feeding, just being there is enough.
Some things that are culturally awkward or unacceptable in the United States that happens in Uganda has also piqued my interest. One is that men are not afraid to be close with their other male friends. It was not uncommon to see a man lead another man by the hand or have his hand on a friend or colleagues shoulder when introducing them or talking. In the United States, there is still a taboo on men showing any emotion to their friends, especially towards their male friends. Another thing I noticed is women were able to openly breastfeed without covering up and that was completely normal. I understand this is currently a heated topic in the United States, but, from what I could tell, the children were unaffected by this and no men would stare or say anything when it happened. These are heated topics, but I hope this may offer a different perspective to some of you who read this.
I miss all of my friends in Uganda already and how friendly everyone was, even though I am currently not even back in the United States yet! Thank you to everyone who has helped us, taught us, or befriended us on the trip. A special thanks to Winnie, David, Jimmy, Janine, and the students and faculty at Makerere University for putting up with all of us and helping us coordinate everything! I will never forget the trip and what I have learned. For those of you waiting for the safari photos, here they are and sorry for the poor quality. My phones camera is not great.
During our last week in Uganda I happened to notice that my flight information was a bit different than everyone else’s. Accidentally, I booked my flight an entire 24 hours after my entire group. Although my family was encouraging me to “bite the bullet” and pay the price to change my flight, inside I knew I wanted that extra day in Uganda. I wanted to soak in every last minute in the country, even if it meant mostly in silence by myself.
I made it home on Tuesday, just in time for Thanksgiving. With every family member and friend I’ve seen the first question has been “well, how was it?!” I’ve been struggling because there is not one word, or two words, or ten words (or 100 words) to truly represent the magnitude of this trip.
Landing in the US and driving home from Newark airport with snow on the ground I immediately missed the weather in Uganda. As the drivers around us gave my dad and I the “New Jersey hello” (if you’re from NJ you know exactly what I’m referring to), I missed the warmth and benevolence of the Ugandan people. I missed seeing adorable children left and right waving and jumping up and down. Lastly, when I made it home to my refrigerator, I missed the fresh fruit juices (I may or may not have drank 2-3/day).
Compared to the other countries I’ve been to, there was not one moment during this trip that I felt unsafe or anxious. I believe Ugandans have truly been the happiest and most welcoming of people I’ve ever encountered. My time spent in Uganda has left me more humble. It has taught me to find joy in the little things, like the children whose day was made by finding the perfect stick to play with. It has taught me to relax a bit; not everything has to be so precise and rushed in our lives.
In terms of healthcare, it’s so admirable how eager everyone in Uganda was to learn. With every presentation given there were people fully engaged and curious. It seemed everyone truly valued education of any sort and honestly wanted to expand their minds and their practices. Sometimes it seems as though many people in the US are just going through the motions and are only often driven by money rather than the knowledge or skill. There have been times where I myself have been guilty of this. This trip has helped me better appreciate the education I am getting and have gotten and the good that I will be doing with it in my future.
Before I go on and go on forever, I wanted to end this reflection by giving thanks to those most deserving. Thank you to Winnie and David, your hospitality was beyond words and I’m so happy we were able to spend the most time with you two. Thank you to ALL of the Makerere University students and faculty we’ve met, I hope you all stay in touch! Thank you to Janine, your work is so commendable I wish we could have joined you in Masindi longer than we did! Thank you to the fellow Wilkes pharmacy travelers, I hope this trip has brought us all closer (and thank you for letting me serenade you all with ‘Hey Jude’). Last but not least, thank you to Dr. Dana Manning and Dr. Stacy Prelewicz. You two went ABOVE and beyond enduring lots of time, effort, and stress to give us an incredible, phenomenal, sensational journey.
I will forever advocate for this APPE rotation because I will always promote the importance of global health to health care professionals (and future professionals) and I want other students to feel these indescribable feelings accompanied with this once in a lifetime experience.
Being back home for about a week now, I’ve had a lot of time to unwind my mind and personally reflect on my experience in Uganda. I knew it would be the opportunity of a lifetime but, relaying my experiences to all of my friends and family I feel I am able to cherish this experience that much more. I find myself at a loss of words at times, unable to depict life in Uganda with any pattern of words or pictures. The most impactful thing I can say about life in Uganda is while they may live quite differently and simply, the people seem far happier than most of the people I’ve come across in America or Europe. They seem to need only the essentials, and even without some of these essentials they always wear a smile on their face. I feel privileged to be taking this part of Uganda home with me.
The healthcare aspect of Uganda required the most reflection of everything I experienced. At the beginning of the trip I questioned everything they did in the hospitals trying to make sense of everything. I couldn’t help but to think they practiced like we would have 40 years ago. By the end of the trip I decided I would never comes to terms with some of their practices and felt more comfortable saying, “They just do things differently over here, and I can’t necessarily change this”. While I still disagree with many of their practices, I know they are doing what they think is the best for their patients, and the best with the resources they have. I love how pharmacy is trying to evolve into a more clinical profession in Uganda. Winnie is the best human being ever for working so hard for the profession of pharmacy. She has high expectations for pharmacists in Uganda (and probably even pharmacists in America for that matter). It will be a slow process, but each small step in the right direction will help speed up the process. I hope we were able to do just that and help pharmacy in Uganda take one small step in the right direction.
I hope I am able to take these thoughts with me and incorporate them into my travels, my practices, and my relationships moving forward in everyday life. Being able to take a step back from any situation, gain some perspective, and decipher how to tackle the problem from all angles is a talent I hope to keep strengthening and I know this global health APPE helped me to do so. Until next time Africa, I’ll be back!
After a long, long journey home (46 hours of total travel time), and a day or so of trying to readjust my time zone, I find myself reflecting on the past month with a great deal of emotion. This trip brought many challenges – emotional, physical, and intellectual. I think today is a perfect day to write about these thoughts.
If I’m being completely honest – I went to Africa this time with an agenda. The last time I went I realized that I had fallen in love – with the country, the people, and the experience. I loved the intensity of the connections I made while I was there. I wasn’t sure I would ever feel that connection again – I had spent the past year trying to figure out what made it all so impactful to me. As I prepared for this trip, I tried telling myself that it would be still be good, just different. But in reality, I was scared that this trip wouldn’t allow me to access those emotions, and would feel routine and tedious. My agenda on this trip was to “get over it” – to work hard and to do the absolute best for my students, but to move on from the feeling of being in love that I had struggled with.
But now on the other side, I can say that I completely failed to “get over it”. This trip was everything I could have hoped for and so so much more. The heart and soul of this experience was the students. I cannot be more proud of the work they did – in the clinic as well as the interpersonal work that an experience like this demands. They all challenged themselves to grow and change and to be flexible professionally and personally. They are now able to do things that most other pharmacy students in their class cannot do – think laterally and creatively about clinical issues and take in to account other cultures, complications, and in some cases the almost complete lack of resources. I know know for sure that it is the maturity that develops on a trip like this that is perhaps the most important outcome.
I also simply cannot express my gratitude to the many people in Uganda that helped us to set up experiences and also spent hours shepherding us through the professional and cultural challenges of these experiences. Winnie, David, Janine, Arthur, Walter, and so many others cared so much for us and gave so much of themselves without expecting anything in return. It is just how the Ugandan people relate to the world. I sincerely hope I can become a bit more like them every day – and say to everyone I meet “You are welcome”.
And once again I was reminded that Uganda is a country that is so incredibly rich in one of the most important resources in the world – community. As I write this I am watching a local news report about a person who is trying to “score three TV’s – a 42″, 55″, and 65” at a Black Friday sale. I can’t help but see so clearly that for how much stuff people have in the US, we lack so much in community these days. The smiles, the welcome, the sharing that all of us experienced on this trip will last with all of us forever. I hope that all of my students on this trip and in to the future can see that this is the true value of the experience.
In the coming days I am asking each of my students to write a little bit about what they are feeling now that they are home. These feeling are acute now, but they do fade, and it is important to capture them so that we may be reminded and not lose the clarity we have right now. For me – I didn’t get over it. I didn’t turn it in to just part of my job, in to a vacation from my everyday. It was so much more intense than any other part of what I do, and it asked so much of me. I am still in love – with the country, the people, the sights, the tastes, and the intense personal challenge that I find so much growth from. And you know what? I’m now more in love than ever before – because now I have 8 other people that I found so much appreciation and insight in to. So they will join the reasons I love Uganda and Africa, and they are now also part of the bittersweet longing I’ll feel every time a song or a taste or a smell takes me right back. I hope they all know how much they mean to me, and that my appreciation for them will follow all of them in to the future no matter where they go. I told them all I sometimes have difficulty moving on from things. But now I know I shouldn’t “move on” – it is precisely these connections that sustain all of us and create community even when people are far away.
Oh – we also ended our trip by going on a safari trip! It was spectacular – I hope that the student share their beautiful pictures and their wonder at experiencing yet another display of Uganda’s richness. And I hope we are all inspired to protect and to visit these natural spaces – to lose them would be a tragedy to the community we are all a part of.
I can’t wait for my next trip. It is an honor to work with these extraordinary students and to help give them these experiences. Until then – stay tuned to this blog for updates and developments from Wilkes and our efforts to develop teaching and learning opportunities in public and global health!