Trip Report – MIF 2019 Summer Interns
Nigeria Trip Summary
by Adaure N., University of Michigan Medical School; M.S, Biotechnology, Johns Hopkins; B.S, Neuroscience and Psychology, Princeton University.
Being part of this year’s 2019 medical mission was both a privilege and an eye-opening experience as to the behind the scenes efforts required for a fully functioning clinic to meet the ever-evolving needs of its community. Returning to the compound on the mission morning, I was filled with anticipation, excitement, and a sense of thrill to see all the new changes that had been made in my 2 years absence.
Walking to the new clinic site, along a path that had been ingrained in my memory, I was amazed to find myself walking into a building that I could not have imagined would be standing there 2 years ago. Attempting to acclimate to the clinic rooms, pharmacy, dozens of students and physicians, while coordinating our research flow for the day was daunting at first. But, the patients were all so eager to help, learn, and to gain something for their children and their families that would extend beyond the immediate mission care they were receiving.
…Witnessing the diligence and care the parents had for the health education was humbling. I wasn’t expecting individuals to be taking notes, asking in-depth questions that I had to later look up in order to provide an adequate answer, or encourage people to come the following day to learn information that could help their children. It was humbling to be part of such a longitudinal and sustainable experience. I knew that the foundations we were laying, were building upon previous work that had readied this population for the community-level healthcare that was being provided and required buy-in from stakeholders at every level.
It can be easy to underestimate the importance of primary care in seemingly healthy children, but having met these families and then looking at their children’s chart it can be disheartening knowing that change takes time and the changes required to prevent maladies such as iron-deficiency anemia or malaria will not occur overnight. The most memorable moment for me occurred after the two-day medical mission when the clinic went back to its regular daily functionalities. I required further information from a few of my patient subjects…When we called the first patient’s caregiver, and they answered with happiness in their voice at being contacted and an openness to even coming back to the clinic when all we needed was an answer over the phone, I knew that our work meant as much to this community as we hoped and envisioned that it would. Sustainability of health education, advocacy, and lifestyle changes requires investment on both ends, and to tangibly witness that during the mission was an unmatched feeling.
Going home I’m always excited for every meal. Even the pineapple and fried plantain excite my taste buds in a way that cannot be replicated back here in the States. …It’s a treat being home and amongst the food, smells, and preparations that are near and dear to my heart. Driving along and seeing along the side of the road someone cooking and selling corn, suya meat, plantain chips, or some other treat. The entrepreneurship and hustle in Nigeria is unparalleled. …Each time I come back to Nigeria, I learn something new about my culture or am in awe of the way that it’s expressed so subtly and without fanfare; Walking into the airport and seeing the uniformed workers in their custom made Ankara outfits, styled to their liking, and professional in every sense of the word; Entering planes that bear the names of my Igbo culture. Being provided a flight menu with foods that I would only ever associate with my mother’s kitchen, homemade food I wouldn’t think I could order outside; Hearing pigeon English being used amongst coworkers or jokingly in the street; Billboards with Brown smiling faces of every hue, and the open practice of all different kinds of faith; Being immersed in one’s own culture in the home country of origin is unlike any other experience, and to be provided that opportunity through this organization and the opportunity to give back and help build up my ancestral home is such a formative experience that has become integral to the lens through which I view the world and the career I hope to build.
This internship has provided a lens into multifaceted care and community grassroots efforts, as well as prepared us for the difficulties and hurdles that come with providing trans-national care and performing trans-national research. It requires a level of intimacy with the community that cannot be built overnight, relationships with elders and integral organizations or institutions, and an investment that extends beyond your immediate goals but truly takes into account the most pressing needs of the community. Having access to young healthcare professionals and volunteers throughout the internship was also central to my experience as it highlights that this work isn’t because there aren’t capable individuals in Nigeria or other developing countries that are experiencing difficulties. It emphasizes that there are a plethora of resources that can and should be leveraged in any global health work being done, and to learn from those already doing the work involved, assessing and contributing to their efforts as needed. I’m grateful for the continued opportunity to be part of these medical missions and the research projects, and am ecstatic for the continued growth of the organization and all those involved.