Posted on Monday, 14 August 2017

Returning last week from the PNG Health Project placement at Kiunga Hospital, Griffith University Medical Student Philip Chung wrote about his experience. 

"Traveling to Papua New Guinea with QRME has been one of the greatest decision[s] I've made since starting my medical degree. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to practice medicine in a developing nation during my student years.

I went to PNG expecting a few things: 1) to be put outside my comfort zone; 2) to experience a different heath system and gain exposure to tropical diseases; and 3) to learn the culture and traditions of a neighbouring country. I can honestly say that PNG certainly delivered!1

In my first few weeks, personally, I found it difficult to be away from family and friends with limited means of communication back home. However, any feeling of homesickness was eased by the company of three other medical students. From a professional perspective, I was challenged with having to work in an unfamiliar setting, making clinical decisions on my own, and assisting in procedures uncommonly 4-2performed in Australia (e.g. foot amputation and laparotomies). I must admit, one of the biggest challenges I encountered was having to confront, and eventually accept, the poor health outcomes that occurred despite our best efforts - some things were just out of our control. Without doubt, I feel that these challenges have placed me in a better position for my internship next year.

2Whilst at Kiunga District Hospital, I had the opportunity to experience first hand the operations of a hospital with limited resources - with no electronic medical record system, limited supply of medication, restricted access to medical imaging and pathology tests. Nevertheless, the hospital functions very well with what little is available - much to the credit of its administrative staff and health workers. I was further impressed by the variety of tropical diseases and late- presentations of other medical conditions - e.g. Malaria, TB, and HIV.

One of the highlights of this trip was spending time with the locals, learning their customs and traditions. For example, you would greet another person with a simple handshake that involved ending with two clicks of the fingers, symbolizing 'one for me, and, one for you'. There was a strong sense of friendliness and feeling welcomed in community, we would get waves from children from far distances, and5 greeted more intimately with 'good mornings/afternoons' wherever we went!

Overall, I've had a fantastic international experience, much to the support and credit of QRME and Griffith University. I would highly recommend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to students who are unafraid to step outside of their comfort zone, and want a unique and challenging clinical experience."