Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How I learned what I learned, by blogger of the month Seungjin Kim

During the first year of the MSIH program, I learned quite a lot about International Health. The learning was mostly by frontal lectures by some fascinating lecturers who have or are currently working in their relative health sectors, ranging from local hospitals to the Israeli government agency, even outward to Europe and the WHO. I really learned a lot, and the concept of it doesn't seem too vague anymore.

Frontal lectures have the advantage of speeding up acquirement of near-neutral knowledge, much like as you'd learn Kung-fu by inserting a jack at the back of your head and downloading the software, like how Neo did in the movie Matrix. Then again, it's not THAT interesting. Or fun.

My first direct exposure, or how I first sensed I am being exposed to the fact that this school is situated with a window to show a world other than the United States I was comfortable in, was through the clinical interview sessions, and especially when we started going to the Bedouin villages. Well, not only that. A local PHR group held meetings about the Bedouins and how bad their situation is in Israel.

A straight-shot way to describe what I felt would be that the Bedouin situation was a model in which I learned the concepts to consider when the goal was to increase the health status of a developing country. We listened to the examples in the Bedouin population in nutrition studies in GHM health modules, tribe-based genetic diseases in Genetics, lower status of women, high prevalence of diabetes, and the demolition/re-construction of unrecognized Bedouin villages and reasons why.

On top of that we started going out to the clinics situated in the Bedouin villages, such as Tel Sheva. We saw the patients, usual reasons for hospital visit, and we also tagged along house visits. The house visits really opened my eyes as to what we'll be actually doing if we're to be doctors in developing countries. The nurse that tagged us along was being invited into a family house, counseling on diets that are better for the diabetic father, teaching how to use the insulin injector. The diabetic patients with parts of their lower limbs amputated made me think a lot. It could have been avoided.

My second direct exposure was when I helped out a second year set up a computerized medical records system for a refugee clinic in Tel Aviv. One of our classmate found in her heart to start volunteering every week there, even though that means spending quite a bit of time just in transit. Anyway, before the computerized medical records system, they only had Word documents as a medical records system. With the help of this brilliant second year, the refugee clinic now runs on Ubuntu (I just had to put this down here because it's an open source Linux operating system and it's so awesome standing up to Microsoft and Windows!!!), running OpenMRS – the fully free medical records system that, like any other awesome open-source initiatives, are done by a focused network of like-minded programmers around the world who think they should give to the world something awesome, for free.

The refugee clinic in right inside Tel-Aviv's huge Central Bus Station, or CBS. They are part of a network of refugee clinics, where refugees can come for medical needs. In this one, it's managed by Orel, an Israeli that is around my age, with a passion for cigarettes and the need to help the refugees find justice in Israel. I'm thankful I found an outlet for my need to fix/tinker with computers, that I can help out in the IT part of the refugee clinic, and maybe on the health side of the operation as well, if time permits in the coming year.

Of course, there are other ways to get exposed, such as the PHR. Or teaching English in Umbatim. Or you can just outright create your own window to whatever you want to get exposed. I know I'm not the adventurous type, and even I got two substantial exposures this year – a taste of what's to come in the next two years here, and afterwards as a doctor in underserved communities. – blogger of the month Seungjin Kim