Walter is a public health major, and joined to VACorps program in June 2021 where he participated in a medical/public health internship at a local clinic in Cape Town.
“Traveling away from home to a totally different continent is a little daunting. Once I met Loyiso at the airport I felt an instant sigh of relief. The VACorps staff are so kind and thoughtful. Kus and Kholi have been amazing. I was worried I would have to plan so much of my stay myself but I am very glad that the amazing staff coordinated Friday activities and was always messaging in the WhatsApp group chat. Sean was so awesome and showed us a different side of South Africa. I would have never been willing or able to do so many hikes without him. I truly just appreciate the energy in this office. It is very apparent that the entire staff wants the interns to have a good time and actually learn at their internship sites.
I worked at a public clinic in one of Cape Town’s townships, and I would highly recommend it to anyone working in the field of public health, kinesiology, or medicine. As I gained the trust and respect of the staff at the clinic I was given more and more responsibility. I met so many students from the University of Cape Town and UWC. Since I have such a huge interest in infectious disease I knew I needed to come to South Africa and see the healthcare system with my own eyes. A lot of work needs to be done since this country has the highest HIV rates in the world. When I get back home, I want to continue my work with HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Stigma needs to change and science needs to advance worldwide for more treatment and prevention options.
For those doing a medical internship at a public health site, my advice would be to:
-Ask lots of questions about cultural norms so as to be respectful to the patients you treat.
-Bring your own gloves and masks. The facility has limited medical supplies.
-If you are unhappy in a specific department go to another. Simply introduce yourself and state that you are more than willing to help with anything. Some sections are definitely slower pace than others.
-Communicate with the doctors and nurses the differences in the healthcare system you see here vs. in your home country.