Case Study – Dr. Aryasomayajula

Samy is a final year radiology registrar. She went to Gulu in north Uganda as part of the Gulu Diagnostic Imaging project (GDIP), for two weeks, in October 2022. She chose a short-term skills trip rather than a six-month fellowship because of the stage she was at in her speciality training, and because of financial commitments. Samy was already providing some online mentoring to medical students there, and the chance of being more involved specifically in imaging was ideal for her.

Samy had done an elective in India as a medical student which was “really eye opening and interesting”, but this project was in her field of imaging, and so it was too great to resist. The GDIP project seemed perfect: it was an opportunity to teach more students by going over there and see how imaging is done in a country without the resources of the very advanced machines we have in the UK.

Her role in Uganda was purely teaching, not a clinical role. Instead, she taught and observed the students’ practice. In the UK, Samy knows what training the registrars have already had, but for the Ugandan students, she didn’t know their prior experience. So Samy and the team designed their teaching to include aspects such as leadership, management, and communication. In Uganda, the radiology students were largely trained practically on the job, whereas Samy was able to give one to one teaching and feedback, which was valued.

Samy appreciates the need for good coordination before and during the project. She said that very little happens via email before the visit, so it was useful having someone in-country. This helps with practical matters, such as recruiting the doctors and students for the teaching sessions, and to help the UK visitors adjust to the local pace and mindset. Samy had spoken to previous volunteers, which offered some useful insight. However, adapting to changes in schedules and tailoring teaching sessions according to students’ needs made the experience more interesting!

Despite the challenges, Samy found the experience meaningful:

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“It opened up the opportunity for me to take more ownership and develop leadership qualities. It encouraged me to think laterally and problem solve. It helped me to consider during the experience, how I can make my time more meaningful? It made me think, evaluate and reflect on new skills that I had gained in the process.”

Samy recognises the difference in working clinically in a resource-poor setting:

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“So, what I gained from it was how they operate and how they solved these clinical challenges in this setting. It was just interesting to see when you don’t have the luxury of multiple imaging modalities to offer the patient, how are you gonna manage that? The NHS is under immense pressure. If we can save resources here and use clinical acumen instead, that would be helpful: that’s what I took back.”

Now back in the UK, Samy has reflected on the impact of the global learning opportunity had on her:

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“It has given me something really interesting to talk about that not many people would have had an opportunity to do. It has improved my ultrasound skills because I’ve spent two weeks just doing ultrasound, whereas I spend one session a week doing ultrasound in my clinical work. I now have an appreciation for teaching in different environments, developing innovative teaching methods and evaluating their effectiveness through robust forms of feedback. It has been a really enriching experience.”

Samy realised she had to be open minded and remain flexible. Samy’s advice to colleagues considering a global learning opportunity?

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“Keep a journal each day, and reflect on, ‘What have I achieved? What have I gained? What have I given? It will be more rewarding by doing it this way.'”