A Year in Review: Teaching the Next Generation of Doctors in Tanzania

January 8, 2015 11:30 PM

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On my first day working as an OB/GYN at a rural hospital in Tanzania, I was called urgently to the operating room for help. A pregnant patient had been admitted with such a severe dental abscess that her face was disfigured from the infection. Two hours ago, the medical staff had performed a procedure to drain the abscess, but the patient was still in the operating room. Swelling from the abscess had obstructed her airway and the patient was unable to breathe without assistance. I asked for a fetal Doppler to assess the baby, but unfortunately, not long after I arrived, the patient's oxygen saturation decreased, and we could no longer feel her pulse. We started CPR and they tried to intubate her, but in the end were never able to get an airway. I made a decision to perform an emergency C-section to save the baby, but my heart sank even further when I found not just one baby but undiagnosed twins. We tried to resuscitate them but never got heartbeats. The hospital staff had responded to the best of their ability and resource capability; but in a short period of time, three lives were lost that day.

I spent a year working and teaching in a hospital that served a catchment area of almost 725,000 people and performed about 10,000 obstetric deliveries per year. I went abroad to teach principles of OB/GYN to medical officer students who were not receiving the training they needed. When I arrived in...

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