I was excited to have the opportunity to go on a tropical medical expedition to Tanzania, Africa. This was an expedition led by a well-known tropical medicine specialist out of Germany named Dr. Kay Schaefer. He takes a small group of international health care providers into Africa for clinical hands on experience with tropical diseases at both the bed side and in field excursions, as well as to learn the health care resources available in Tanzania. I chose to do this expedition for a few reasons. First, since our practice provides comprehensive primary care AND travel medicine we were beginning to see more travelers return to our primary care side with tropical diseases, creating more overlap of needs, i.e. it is changing the questions we need to ask and the diagnoses we need to consider. Second, most health care providers in the U.S. have not had the opportunity to see these diseases and I wanted this experience. We were going to be out in the bush in search of these types of cases, where few people have been, that is exciting! Lastly, it has been my dream to travel to Africa and understand why everybody says, “It is amazing”.
As you read my blog please keep in mind that our group sought out tropical diseases. To do this I would need to prepare just as I would prepare any one of my patients going on this type of trip. I took every precaution that I would recommend to one of my patients: the vaccines, the anti-malarial, a medical travel kit and repellants. We were given weight restrictions on our luggage, only 12kg and a backpack for almost 16 days of travel!
Getting to my destination was not easy. I left Washington, DC from Dulles on February 18th and after flying to Zurich and Nairobi, I finally made it to Dar Es Salaam late the next night. I spent the night in Dar and took the first morning flight from Dar in to Kilimanjaro. You may be wondering, “why all the stops when KLM can fly more directly?” I used my airline frequent flier miles and for that I get to see more of the world. I have attached a picture of the Swiss Alps from my plane window.
The following are my observations and my opinions based on my experiences. Although we saw the absolute intoxicating beauty and diversity of Africa, this was a medical expedition, so some of my excerpts may be hard for you to read. Lastly, these excerpts were taken from my journal that I wrote in late at night about my experiences of the day (usually under my bed net with a flashlight), and at times the diction may not be perfect.