John Bowman Reflection – Developing ultrasound-guided IV capacity in Rural Uganda

Center for Global Health
May 29, 2024
John Bowman, MUSC College of Medicine student, meets with patients during a global health trip in Masindi, Uganda.

John Bowman is a College of Medicine student at MUSC. He was awarded a Center for Global Health Student & Trainee Travel Grant in the fall of 2023 to pursue a project with OneWorld Health in Masindi, Uganda. View more photos of John's time in Uganda in this Flickr photo gallery.

We landed in Entebbe, Uganda, a few minutes before midnight—39 hours after taking off from Charleston. Once we made it through customs, Joel’s welcoming smile and warm embrace wiped away our exhaustion. His kindness towards a group of medical students from the States he had never met captured the warmth, generosity, and openness of the Ugandan people we would work with over the next month.

At Masindi Kitara Hospital (MKH), we immersed ourselves in the Ugandan healthcare system, visiting rural outreach clinics, established healthcare centers, and refugee settlement hospitals. Each experience left a deep and lasting impression on me, filled with both joy and sadness. The dedication and resilience of the Ugandan medical staff shone through in every interaction, revealing their unwavering commitment to patient care despite the challenges they faced.

Two experiences stand out in my memory. Late one evening, a mother rushed into the nursing room (Uganda’s version of our Emergency Department) with an unresponsive nine-month-old infant in her arms. The nurse, clinical officer, and attending physician on duty immediately sprang into action, battling for the next 30 minutes to reverse the effects of organophosphate poisoning. Their efforts successfully stabilized the child that evening, but heartbreakingly, he passed away two days later due to complications, as more than nine hours had passed from exposure to presentation for care.

This tragic outcome highlighted the prevalence of organophosphate poisoning in farming communities and the critical delays in accessing appropriate care. Despite the heartbreak, the Ugandan medical staff's compassion, dignity, and empathy towards the patient and his mother were profoundly moving. Their actions embodied the essence of compassionate, patient-centered care. The staff's ability to provide emotional support to the grieving mother while dealing with their own sorrow showcased their remarkable strength and dedication.

Another memorable case involved a young woman we saw during an outreach who presented with vague symptoms. We discovered she had an ectopic pregnancy and brought her back to the hospital for emergency surgery the following morning. Tragically, she suffered a rupture overnight and would not have survived if she had not already been admitted and prepared for surgery. The patience and care the outreach medical staff showed to a nervous and unsure patient were inspiring, reflecting the dedication and empathy all medical providers should strive to emulate.

The outreach team’s meticulous attention to detail and their proactive approach in ensuring the patient received timely care were lifesaving. They exhibited not only clinical expertise but also a profound understanding of the human aspect of medicine. Their interactions with patients were filled with kindness and reassurance, which greatly eased the patients' fears and anxieties.

Although these two cases had drastically different outcomes, the way the Ugandan medical providers cared for and respected their patients transcended cultural boundaries. Their unwavering commitment and heartfelt compassion revealed the true heart and soul of medicine, leaving an indelible mark on all of us. Witnessing their dedication reinforced my belief in the power of empathy and human connection in healthcare. The Ugandan medical staff taught us invaluable lessons about resilience, compassion, and the true meaning of patient-centered care, lessons that will undoubtedly influence our future practice as healthcare professionals.