Chris Brees (Medicine Pre-Clinical, 1st year)

International work experience bursary winner working as a Community Health Team member with Go Make A Difference, Tanzania

Chris' role

Chris spent a month working in a medical team based in Musoma (Tanzania), escorting patients from the local villages into the town to the testing clinic, medical centre and hospital. Chris’ duties included undertaking basic triage on the patients and determining the most appropriate location in which they should be treated (most serious to hospital and least serious to the testing clinic).

Achievements and challenges

Chris Brees

The environment in which Chris worked was very busy and this was highlighted when he was asked to identify his greatest achievement during his placement. “My main achievements are difficult to pin-down as in a lot of cases, if people got better, they didn’t come back to us, therefore we had no way of knowing for sure that they were better, and due to our time constraints we weren’t able to go and check-up on everyone. However I would say the sheer number of people who we took to the various health enterprises was astonishing – given our limited resources – around 200 people in 5 weeks. This is an amazing number of people and to be involved on a first-hand basis with ensuring that these people got the care that they needed has really inspired me to help more.”

Chris identifies that, “many aspects of the trip were challenging, whether that would be physically, in terms of organisation, or financial decisions, but I believe the hardest aspects of the placement were emotional, as in many cases we were seeing cases which were shocking by any standard, and maintaining focus in that situation, and coming to terms emotionally with the reality was particularly challenging. One particularly emotionally challenging case was that of a 2 year-old boy who had contracted malaria of a high severity. I found this difficult as this disease is easily preventable, relatively easily treatable, and yet it was still putting this young boy’s life at risk. Seeing him struggling so much was very challenging for all of the team. A positive that I can take from emotionally challenging situations like these are that I have found them to drive me on more, which is encouraging as it means that I may be able to help, rather than hinder the situation.”

Skills learned

Employability skills that Chris developed during his placement include, “leadership, team work and communication skills… My communication skills have been used constantly throughout my time in Tanzania, and I believe have also improved from the experience. As there were so many of us out there, it was vital that the teams were efficient in what they did, so communicating effectively and concisely without wasting people’s time is a skill which I have honed on this trip.” However, the trip also helped Chris to recognise that, “I will need to develop lots of skills in the future, the main to being medical knowledge and how to deal with emotionally difficult situations.” When thinking about the future, this has led him to consider, “practising medicine in Africa as I found it an amazing way of life, but also experiencing first-hand the poor healthcare available has given me a desire me to want to make it better. Because of this I hope to undertake similar placements in the future, in order to get more ideas of how I can help, and also understand the healthcare system better.”

When asked how the International Work Experience Bursary helped him, Chris observed that, “I would like to thank you for your financial support, without which I would not have been able to undertake this life-changing placement in Tanzania. The placement has benefitted me greatly, both in terms of improving my skillset – therefore advancing my progress towards becoming a doctor – and also in terms of giving me more ideas on what I would like to do when qualified. I now believe I would like to practise in Tanzania and without your support I would not have discovered this new-found passion, so I would like to thank you whole-heartedly for giving me this opportunity.”

Posted on Thursday 24th October 2013