Grace Pouch Reflection – OBGYN Rounds in Ethiopia

Center for Global Health
May 25, 2023

Grace Pouch is a College of Medicine student at MUSC. She was awarded a Center for Global Health Student & Trainee Travel Grant in fall 2022 to pursue a project with Soddo Christian Hospital in Soddo, Ethiopia. View more photos of Grace’s time in Ethiopia in this Flickr photo gallery

Soddo Christian Hospital (SCH) in southwestern Ethiopia is a place like no other. The five weeks of living and working on the hospital's campus were a life-changing experience for me. From the moment I arrived, jet lagged and tired, I was showered with love from the missionary families, physicians, and local Ethiopian residents. It wasn't long before the hospital's campus became my home away from home, and I felt like a part of the family.

The heart of this hospital is rooted in humility and service, from assisting patients rejected by numerous hospitals due to insufficient funds to praying over each patient on morning rounds. My time at SCH consisted of working directly under Dr. Nate Ross, an OBGYN, on rounds, surgery, and clinic days. Pelvic organ prolapse, one of the most common conditions presented by patients at SCH, makes up about a third of the cases seen in the OBGYN department. The condition is the process through which a woman's pelvic organs slip down into the vaginal canal. These lovely women have "lived" with it for three, five, ten, or more years, and it makes life incredibly difficult. It is hard for them to work, to perform basic physiological functions, and to have a normal relationship with their husband. Surgical repair of pelvic organ prolapse in these women is fully funded by SCH and Dr. Nate Ross. This surgery transforms not only the anatomy, but radically improves quality of life post-operatively.

After considering all my experiences, the one that encapsulates the heart of SCH the most is the white coat ceremony. Held each year at Soddo Christian Hospital, the white coat ceremony reflects the hospital's values and a testament to the faculty's commitment to lead and serve with humility. The white coat represents a physician's responsibility and commitment to serving patients, colleagues, and residents in training. Midway through the ceremony, I was surprised to see the residents remove their shoes and socks and walk to the front to receive their white coat. This was not part of the regular program at MUSC that I was used to. The attending doctors then came forward, got down on their knees, and began washing the feet of the first-year residents. As the attending doctors finished washing the feet of the first-year residents, they stood up and handed them their white coats. The room was silent as everyone watched this powerful display of humility and service. The act of washing feet is a symbol of respect and compassion rooted in Christianity and the heart of Jesus. As I watched the ceremony unfold, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to witness this beautiful reminder of the privilege it is to be a part of a profession in medicine. As I return back to the states, I will hold these experiences close to my heart, striving to remember the great responsibility of the physician.