Peace Corps Writers
Burkina-Faso — Always on My Mind (page 2)
Burkina-Faso— Always on My Mind
page 1
page 2

     When I first received my invitation to live and work in Africa, I was intimidated by melodramatic, overstated speculations of friends and family who said that the experience would “change my life,” that I would be “a different person when I returned home.” Fortunately I can report that I am very much the same person whom I was before I left. But undeniably, something in me is different.
     My exposure to patients and procedures in Burkina-Faso broadened my perspective of medicine on a global level. Now a medical student, in my study of immunology and pathology I remember patients in Basma who died from malaria and meningitis, and I have insight into psychosocial factors that can influence pathology of those diseases. Health care policy debates surround the hospitals where I conduct my clinical rotations, and my opinions on universal health care are informed by personal recollections of the socialized medical system of the developing world. In my formal acquisition of physical diagnosis and medical interviewing, I am grounded by practical skills that were part of my daily routine in the village clinic suturing wounds, measuring vital signs, administering vaccinations, conducting prenatal consultations. My work in Basma certainly provided me with a solid foundation from which to develop my career as a physician.
     But it is the interpersonal, “non-medical” aspects of my experience in Burkina-Faso that I find most valuable in my professional journey to become a physician. Confined by cultural and linguistic barriers, I adapted to life in Basma and found common ground with people whose world is radically different from my own. Once a total stranger, with time I became a trusted friend to families in the village of Basma. As a medical student, I often find myself revisiting that feeling as I learn to provide comfort and support to patients who face the foreign experience of illness and disease. As I integrate my experience in Africa with my study and practice of medicine, I carry these memories and lessons with me into the classrooms and clinics that will fill my life for years to come.

Glen Davis graduated from Hamilton College in New York as a comparative literature major. After college he worked as a clinical research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry at St. Vincent's Hospital & Medical Center in New York City, and later in the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In Burkina-Faso he worked as a health education volunteer and stayed on during 1998 as a Regional Peace Corp Volunteer Leader in the town of Kaya. Glen returned to Burkina Faso during the summer of 2000 to work for three months in the Department of Psychiatry at the Hospital National Yalgado Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou. He is currently a 4th year medical student at Cornell University Medical College in New York City and plans to pursue residency training in psychiatry.

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