My Summer in South Africa

dscn0870 As most of you in the CMC community are aware, the Center for Human Rights Leadership sponsors a number of human rights based internships each summer. What many people tend to forget, though, is that human rights is an extremely broad topic and internships in this field are applicable to all majors and interests. For the past two years, the Center has been working to promote human rights internships for students with a pre-med focus. Clinics and hospitals all over the world need help acquiring resources, staff, and stability in order to properly take care of patients. Working for a clinic in many underdeveloped countries is a great opportunity for pre-med students to experience medicine and patient care early in their careers. Sarah Swartz (CMC’15) was one of the Center’s sponsored pre-med interns this summer!

TS: Where did you work this summer and what is the basic importance of your organization?

SS: Through Child Family Health International (CFHI), I worked in hospitals, clinics, and a hospice. They placed me in two programs: HIV/AID and Healthcare in Durban and Healthcare Challenges in Cape Town. CFHI was a great experience as it gives exposure to healthcare needs to premedical and medical students.

TS: What were your daily responsibilities at your job?

SS: My daily responsibilities changed every day. Sometimes I just watched surgeries done by other doctors. Other time, I talked with patients and was just a friendly face around the hospitals to make people feel more comfortable. I helped the doctors and nurses with basic day-to-day duties such as supplying gauze where necessary. This was not a hands on experience with surgeries nor should it be.

TS: What lessons did you learn this summer, especially with regard to international human rights issues?

SS: The most important lesson I learned is the impact that HIV has on our society. It is insane. This virus does so much damage to the body and the interconnectedness with how HIV spreads in countries with human rights violations is an important concept we need to understand. The way that the disease has prevented the progression of this incredible nation is heartbreaking. But, the way in which the communities are dealing with countless tragedies is inspiring.

TS: Are there any specific experiences or stories from your internship that you would like to share?

SS: Part of my summer experience was working in the Malagasy Clinic. Wow, I wish I could show pictures of this excuse for a clinic. There were holes in the ceiling, some floors are dirt, some have tile. The medical closet and patient exam room is one in the same. I sat in the tiny room squished between the medical storage locker and the door. I observed the treatment and diagnosis of 16 patients. Every patient who came in received antibiotics. This truly horrified me; the threat of superbugs because of poor adherence to treatment and over-prescription is a truly scary future. I now see where these bugs are being born. The conditions of this clinic and the over-medication are things that I had read about but never really seen. I am still in shock by some of the horrors of this clinic. It is not that I saw anything heart-breaking, but I know what this clinic is doing with respect to superbugs and transmission of HIV/AIDS. The lack of hygiene and people not wearing TB masks and the fact that all shots were given using the same needle to get the medication out of the bottle truly made me bite my tongue.

Talia Segal, ’15


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