Recently there has been talk about bringing Zimbabwean Diaspora students back home to contribute to the health sector.
There are possibilities for such students to gain practical experience while contributing to the health needs presently being faced in most clinics and hospitals in the country.
Mila Owen is a Zimbabwean student studying biology at Brown University in the US. She has spent the summer vacation in Zimbabwe at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) medical school.
She is at the UZ as an elective student — she is able to attend classes and practical sessions just like any other medical student.
Owen is also working in a local Aids non-governmental organisation, Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Project focusing on HIV behaviour change strategies.
She found this internship opportunity through Africa Internship Online, encouraging students to come back and gain working experience in Africa.
“Coming home and doing such attachments has been a great experience for me and it keeps me in touch with home,” Owen said, at a Public Affairs Section presentation, at the US embassy last Tuesday.
Owen has chosen to contribute to the health sector in the country rather than working in the US during her summer vacation.
This has its pros and cons, namely the fact that she will not get the opportunity to make money during her summer vacation or learn more about the health sector in the US.
However, she will have invaluable experience shadowing doctors in Zimbabwe and understanding the challenges being faced in the public medical system, in the hope of building the country.
Speaking on some of the problems she has experienced in the health sector, Owen expressed how this exposure to public hospitals had been tough for her.
At times patients come when it is too late. Sometimes certain illnesses could have been picked up earlier, but most patients in the country come when the illness is then at an advanced stage.
In addition to this is the issue of patient rights, most patients do not know their rights. Patients do not understand what they are entitled to, what is good for them and how to speak out.
Other comments during the presentation also showed there is a concern of remuneration, most qualified medical staff has left the country, and students might not consider coming back to work in the country for this reason.
Internship experience in Zimbabwe would help any student see if they would want to come back and settle. If students are driven to contribute and learn from the experienced doctors in the country, this would certainly help in rebuilding the national health sector.
“There is a need for creative solutions to change the system,” Owen said.
This can be done when students are given opportunities to network with other students in the country, as well as with experienced professionals in the health sector.
Unfortunately even though Owen had an opportunity through this internship, it is not always easy for students to find such opportunities. Students need such internships to gain experience and be employable in future.
Some students feel it is difficult to get into the doors of most organisations. Students feel there is nothing available to them.
There is therefore need for organisations and health institutions to avail more opportunities to students thereby encouraging participation in the rebuilding of the health sector in Zimbabwe.
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