WCM-Q students visit Tanzania to learn about global health challenges

Press release
Published May 24th, 2017 - 05:33 GMT
The students provided volunteer service work for Tanzanian initiative called RASA (Reach All, Serve All).
The students provided volunteer service work for Tanzanian initiative called RASA (Reach All, Serve All).

Students from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) experienced the challenges of delivering healthcare in a low-income environment when they spent a week in Tanzania where they had the chance to work on public health projects.

First-year medical students Zaid Shahrori, Fawzi Zghyer, Abivarma Chandrakumaran, Sudarshan Srivats and Saad Sameer, and fourth-year student Zahra H. Rahman spent a week in Mwanza in northern Tanzania, where they worked alongside local medical students and medical residents from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in the US. The students provided volunteer service work for Tanzanian initiative called RASA (Reach All, Serve All), a licensed governmental organization that provides community-screening services to inhabitants that live in remote locations in northern Tanzania in the Lake District that surrounds Lake Victoria.

The team was joined by Swahili-speaking volunteer health care workers and screened more than 1,200 inhabitants who came to one of three mobile clinics, which were set up near schools in the district of Sengeremo and the market place in Mwanza city.

Student Zaid Shahrori said: “Visiting Tanzania made me realize how fortunate we are to have access to very good healthcare services in Qatar. We saw people suffering very severely from diseases that are relatively easy and cheap to prevent with vaccinations.”

The WCM-Q students were guided on the trip by WCM-Q’s Dr. Stella Major, Associate Professor of Family Medicine in Clinical Medicine, and Faten Shunnar, Acting Director of Student Affairs.

The Division of Student Affairs at WCM-Q sponsors a number of WCM-Q students to visit the east African country each year to help them gain a new perspective of global health issues and contribute to health outreach programs. Tanzania is a resource-poor country where GDP per capita is approximately $1,300 and healthcare facilities are extremely limited. Life expectancy is 51 years. In the area the students visited, Lake Victoria serves as the main source of water for most of northern Tanzania’s inhabitants, despite being infested with schistosomiasis and bilharzia (parasitic diseases).

For three days, the team conducted screening activities for close to 500 men and women each day. The screenings involved a brief cardiac risk-factor assessment, a height and weight check to determine the body mass index, and measurement of blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Patients were counseled on modifiable risk factors, and were referred on to receive further care when necessary.

In Mwanza the students also visited Weill Bugando University College of Health Sciences, a center of excellence in medical training supported by Weill Cornell. The training center is affiliated with Bugando Medical Centre, a 900-bed referral hospital, which the students also visited. They also learnt about the risks albino communities in East Africa face, and how local security forces work with healthcare agencies to enhance community awareness about albinism, and ensure that these vulnerable communities are cared for by the provision of adequate sun protection treatments, as well as safety from abuse.

Fourth-year medical student Zahra H. Rahman said: “This trip has made me feel even more strongly about the importance of global health. Many of the same problems Tanzania has affect public health in my home country of India and this has strengthened my resolve to one day return home to help people there.”

The team was also able to visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is home to lions, black rhinoceros, wildebeest, zebra and gazelles. It is also the location of the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic crater.

Dr. Major said: “The students gained a great appreciation of Tanzania’s beauty, but also an acute understanding that if you venture just a little way from the tourism spots you can find some extremely serious public health issues. We were very impressed by their professionalism and compassion.”

Background Information

Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar

Established in 2001 as a partnership between Cornell University and Qatar Foundation, WCM-Q is part of Cornell University in Ithaca, and shares the tripartite mission of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York: A dedication to excellence in education, patient care and research.

The first medical school in Qatar and a pioneer of coeducation at university level, WCM-Q offers an integrated program of pre-medical and medical studies leading to the Cornell University M.D. degree. Teaching is by Cornell and Weill Cornell faculty, including physicians at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) who hold Weill Cornell appointments.

Enrollment has grown rapidly from 25 first year pre-medical students in fall 2002 to more than 300 students from more than 30 countries in 2018.

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