Kaitlyn Pereira, M.D., Reflection – Introduction and application of ultrasound-guided IVs in Uganda

Center for Global Health
May 20, 2024
Dr. Kaitlyn Pereira works with colleagues during a global health trip in Masindi, Uganda. Submitted photo

Kaitlyn Pereira, M.D., is a chief resident in the MUSC Emergency Medicine Residency Program. She was awarded a Center for Global Health Student & Trainee Travel Grant in early 2024 to pursue a project with OneWorld Health in Masindi, Uganda. View more photos of her time in Uganda in this Flickr photo gallery.

As an emergency medicine physician, I have encountered a wide range of medical cases and emergencies. However, my recent global health trip to Uganda presented a unique and transformative experience that profoundly impacted my perspective on medicine and life. The cultural beliefs, the simplicity of life, and the opportunity to impart knowledge in a resource-limited setting have left an indelible mark on me.

One of the most striking encounters was with a little girl who had her uvula removed. In her village, it was believed that removing the uvula would help with emesis. Unfortunately, she developed an infection in her upper airway, leading to significant shortness of breath. The village’s response was to make four small cuts on her breast and place herbs on the wounds, believing this would relieve her dyspnea. Such practices were extraordinarily different from anything I had ever seen or been exposed to. The contrast between these traditional beliefs and modern medical practices was stark, highlighting the gap in medical understanding and the challenges of integrating traditional and contemporary medicine.

The medical care provided in Uganda sometimes kept me up at night, plagued by racing thoughts and nightmares. One particularly harrowing case involved a young male who had his feet amputated above the knee. His severe outcome was due to the inability of the medical staff understanding his disease process and the lack of timely and appropriate medical intervention. Witnessing such preventable suffering was distressing and made me acutely aware of the disparities in healthcare access and education.

Despite these challenges, I was struck by the simplicity and happiness that characterized the lives of many Ugandans. Their resilience and contentment in the face of adversity were inspiring and made me reflect on the complexities and materialism that often dominate life in more developed countries. This experience prompted me to reevaluate my own values and appreciate the fundamental aspects of life that bring true happiness and fulfillment.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my trip was the opportunity to teach point-of-care ultrasound to local healthcare providers. In a setting where advanced diagnostic tools are scarce, ultrasound can be a game-changer. The eagerness and enthusiasm of the local healthcare workers to learn and improve their skills were heartening. Sharing knowledge and empowering them to provide better care was a rewarding experience that underscored the importance of education and collaboration in global health.

This trip to Uganda was not just a professional endeavor but a deeply personal journey. It challenged my medical knowledge, tested my emotional resilience, and broadened my cultural understanding. The experience reinforced the importance of cultural sensitivity and adaptability in providing medical care. It also highlighted the critical need for global health initiatives that bridge the gap between different medical practices and improve healthcare access and education in underserved areas.

In conclusion, my global health trip to Uganda was a profound and eye-opening experience. It exposed me to the complexities of integrating traditional beliefs with modern medicine, the stark realities of healthcare disparities, and the beauty of simplicity and happiness in everyday life. Most importantly, it reaffirmed my commitment to global health and the vital role of education in empowering healthcare providers worldwide. This journey has left me with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper appreciation for the diverse tapestry of human experiences and beliefs that shape our world.