From Nepal to Ghana to Liverpool, my beginnings in Tropical Medicine

21 Sep 2016

Sarah Bannerman, DTMH September 2016

Hi, my name is Sarah and I'm an Australian. I've come to the UK to study the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at LSTM. I've been working as a resident in a regional city 2 hours north of Melbourne for the past 2 and a half years (the equivalent of foundation training) and I'm planning to start training in Emergency Medicine back in Australia next year.

My hobbies are neglected and generic (mainly reading, appreciating gin/wine/cider, travel, collecting random facts and obscure quotes). I haven't played an instrument for many years and I am certainly on the lower end of the Bell curve when it comes to sport but I'll give anything a go with enthusiasm. Even if that does mean tripping over my own feet while playing football despite being nowhere near the ball.

My interest in global health developed during a volunteer trip to Nepal in the months before I started studying medicine. At the time I wasn't there in a medical capacity but nevertheless I fell in love with the country and it was clear that this was where I wanted to direct my medical career. I've also since completed my elective in a district hospital in Ghana, where I was able to appreciate a whole new perspective on medicine and healthcare.

My esteemed colleague outlined the curriculum of week one and this was swiftly followed up with lectures and labs covering gut protozoa, haematology and blood films, cholera, flies and their associated diseases and larvae, water and sanitation, rabies, and a whole swathe of public health approaches. Following the relatively gentle four-day introduction that was week 1, malaria week hit us like being choke slammed through a table. Week 3 covered not just the pathology and treatment of the disease but delved into the details of factors affecting the transmission and prevention of the disease as well as the barriers facing those fighting to reduce it. It was serendipitously encouraging that the week before we learned about the difficulties of malaria control that Sri Lanka was declared malaria free (with no small input from the alumni and staff of the LSTM).

Week 3 ended with a practice quiz on diagnostic parasitology, in which the action of scanning the microscopic field proved to be a challenge for many.

Social events have likewise continued unabated with the establishment of weekly football (now I can say I’ve played for/in Liverpool), a trip to the beach (which was deemed exceptional even by conceited Australian standards), rock climbing and bouldering expeditions, regular dinners, salsa classes, adventures finding jazz bars and both planned and impromptu nights out (to mention a few). A night at a local establishment cemented our revered social representative as the gold standard for group activity organisation (possibly for all time).

No time for sleeping off the events of the week, weekends find the students of LSTM scattered to the far corners of the country and beyond- conquering the Lakes and Peaks Districts and close and distant cities (London, Bristol, Manchester, Warrington).

On a final note, although I've always found talking about the weather lazy conversation it would be remiss to ignore the spectacular weather we've experienced these last few weeks. In all honesty, I was prepared for grey, rainy and generally cosy days. Instead we’ve been gifted with an extended summer consisting of bright blue skies and temperatures consistently above 20 degrees. If it carries on this way, I'm sure we'll all have malaria by the end of the month.