Foreign medical students invade Guyana
Kaieteur News
July 11, 2004

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Guyana seems to be benefiting from the invasion of foreign medical students who seek to have Guyanese rethink the way they deal with issues relating to health. They are here for six weeks.

In addition to the medical students who have come from the University of Toronto, Kaieteur News caught up with Adrienne Best and her counterpart Claudia Kraft who are in the country on an HIV prevention drive.

In addition to doing work with the Guyana Defence Force and hospitals, the group has also worked with the local secondary schools in the country.

Both are second year Queens University students living in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and are part of the Queens Medical Outreach Programme.

The duo is here with Manisha Sharma and Nadia Incardona, who both attend the same university but who are on assignment in Linden.

“We have been sending students to Guyana since 1989 except for the last year. Our projects are basically health oriented and sometimes we have persons who are not necessarily medical students but are part of the outreach programme,” Kraft said.

The students come into the country on a voluntary basis and not only provide service to Guyana but also to other under-serviced and remote areas in countries like Belize and South Africa and even three sites in their own country.

“Because they are Third World countries they have fewer health care resources but we basically choose those countries that are English-speaking,” Best said.

The group is running several programmes with the Red Cross as their main partner.

Among those are ‘The Together We Can’, ‘Peer Education Programme’ in the Caribbean on HIV and Sexual Health and ‘The reach one save one’.

There are also ‘health clubs’ in 30 secondary schools across Guyana. These are facilitated by Jan Miller, Coordinator in the Ministry of Health.

Best and Kraft noted that the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association is also working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health on HIV prevention.

The medical students have also organised a youth camp for members of health clubs. There they will be taught health skills for life for one week at Santa Monica Mission in the Pomeroon.

“We are hoping that at the end of the camp the youths will utilize First Aid skills and would have gained vital information on nutrition. They would also be trained in sports management,” Best remarked.

She added that they must take back the message to the Health Ministry after identifying health issues in their community.

Speaking about the club, the youths not only learn about health issues but issues concerning motor accidents, abortion, puberty and other subject matters of interest.

The 23-year-old Best and 27-year-old Kraft said that they have been working at the Georgetown Public Hospital on breastfeeding and also at the Bartica Hospital.

“We talk with mothers who plan to breastfeed. From our research we found out that Guyanese know a whole lot about breastfeeding from nurses who are doing a lot with new and expectant mothers.

“We were expecting to share information on breast feeding but now we have to tell them about what to eat and how to feed children after they would have stopped breast feeding.”

When asked what were some of the hindrances that they encountered the duo replied: “We had logistical setbacks with administration of the projects, like knowing who to talk to, and from whom to get permission but none with the people.

“For example, when we had a programme with the Guyana Defence Force we were expecting to have problems when we would have sought permission to speak to the soldiers. You know the idea of having two females among a whole bunch of male soldiers but they accepted and there was a great reception.”

The team said that they spoke on HIV/STI’s and spent the afternoon with the soldiers answering their questions and creating a rapport.

They also touched areas like Red Hills on the Barima River where they expressed fear that getting the message across was going to be difficult since the community has no telephones or radio.

“We were going with the expectation that the people did not receive the message that we were coming but when we got there, they were already prepared for us. They were very cooperative and worked with us even at the short notice. They had questions about diarrhoea and snake bites, which is common to the area.”

Best and Kraft also did first aid and blood pressure measurements in the community they described as isolated.

“At Region One, the pace is different from what we are accustomed to and we ran a very good project with the young people who gave us three days of their exam period for which they were studying.”

The two asserted that the youth there possess great leadership skills in a different way from those in Canada.

Citing as a perfect example, the women said the ‘Ready-Body Boom Blast’ only sought to prove how willing Guyanese were to participate in the fight against HIV and AIDS and were not territorial.

“In Canada people are more territorial and it is much more difficult to get young people together from various parts of the country to unite under one body,” the Canadians said.

The team acknowledged the Guyana Red Cross for the great amount of support and mentioned that they consider working in Guyana not as taking away from their summer vacation but as spending valuable time helping people.

When asked if there was any particular field in which they were hoping to achieve expertise, Kraft said that she wants to be a General Family Physician at the end of her studies.

Best complemented her by adding that she hopes to serve in the field of Family Medicine with special emphasis on Paediatrics.