Education: What We're Doing So Much and Mentioning So Little

(from Eric)

I believe that effective blogging is like skimming the cream off of milk (an essential skill if you live in Burundi and want ice cream).  The problem is that we are still in the "churned up" beginning stages, where much is happening and maybe when it settles more we'll be able to better skim off some manageable pieces to share.  Or maybe blogging can help it to settle…

Anyways, one thing that we amazingly haven't really mentioned is our educational work.  If you know about our team, you know that a big part of why we are here is to train Burundian medical students, with the central idea being that they will be able to effectively love, care for, and reach their country better than we will.

This past week, we said goodbye (for now) to the first 26 students that we had the pleasure of being with for 4 months.  They will be back next year.  Here is a photo of them towards the end, with the two white professors who are obviously identical and indistinguishable, namely Alyssa and Rachel:

They are a talented group, and we look forward to working more with them.  So what does this work mean for our daily lives?  Well for one, it means that, almost everywhere we go, we are following by a crowd of about 10 white coats, which are a mix of medical and nursing students.  The reality is that there are not enough places in Burundi to train the professionals that Burundi needs, so teaching services are uncomfortably full.  So, if you see us in the hospital, this is what you most often see:

This is Rachel examining a patient with 1 medical student, and 3 nursing students (Don't worry, the other 6 are just out of view.  Our educational role also means that we spend a lot of time doing this:

Talking.  Talking about physical exam.  Talking about patient care decisions.  Talking about any number of medical subjects.  Answering questions.  Asking them to repeat the question.  Praying for our patients together.  Learning new medical vocabulary.

Since our start, we have given 5 lectures a week, which has been an ambitious linguistic challenge for all of us, since it means taking our medical training, translating into the appropriate context (i.e. what do they need to know here?), and then translating it into French.  The students are wonderfully patient.

However (in my opinion), the hardest thing we have had to do is write test questions in French.  There's a precision in a good test question which requires a very high level of mastery in that language.  Which we don't have.  So we're thankful for friends who proofread for us.  In addition to clinical rounds and teaching, we have been teaching a didactic course that the students were missing, and thus the tests and grading scheme fell to us as well.  It'll be easier the next time.  =)

I think it's fair to say that, coming from Kenya, we were looking to be integrally involved in African medical education, and we have found that.  We are professors.  We are on the University roster.  We test.  We evaluate.  We work with committees.  It is good.  It is also more challenging and multi-dimensional than we thought.  Wow, doesn't that sound like pretty much all of life?  =)

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