by Samantha Cockburn, Medical Elective Student with the Safidy programme, Madagascar
I’m Sam, a final year medical student currently studying at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in southwest England. Four years ago I went to a lecture at which Dr Vik Mohan talked about the Safidy programme run by Blue Ventures in Velondriake. The Safidy programme provides family planning and maternal and child health services to the area, and I’ve been helping to support the programme ever since that first lecture. During our final year at medical school we were given the opportunity to spend some time gaining experience abroad, called an elective. As a result I was able to spend five weeks in Andavadoaka, Blue Ventures’ main field site, and see the programme in action for myself.
However, electives are not cheap, and as a result numerous organisations have elective bursaries that you can apply for to help fund your chosen elective. After looking at the different bursaries available, I decided, with Vik’s support, to apply for one from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG). Five months later I received a letter informing me that they had had a record number of applications, all of which were of a high standard, but that I was one of the lucky six they had chosen to award the bursary to. This, I think, is testimony to the high standard of work that Blue Ventures does through the Safidy programme. The grant helped to fund the cost of my flights, and by August I was in Madagascar finally getting to see all the things that Vik had told me about the programme!
On returning to England, I started to write my report for the College, detailing what I did and what I learnt during my elective. This has since been published on the RCOG website for everyone to read. Furthermore, I was invited to an awards evening at the College in January this year, a very exciting but daunting prospect! They also asked that I produce a poster of my elective to display at the evening. Happy to oblige, I spent a few weeks designing my poster, picking the best pictures and then got it printed. I booked my train and packed my bag, and the next thing I knew I was on the way to the College in London.
I popped the poster up in my designated display area and then headed upstairs for the awards ceremony and lectures. After receiving a certificate as acknowledgement of receiving the bursary, there were several interesting lectures ranging from cervical cancer screening to the benefits of teamwork. Just when I thought the evening was over, they announced that they had the results of the poster competition, something I hadn’t known about! Although I didn’t win, my poster did get a special mention by one of the professors. He said that he thought a new rule to the competition should be that all judges have to visit the elective sites, as he would be very keen to visit Andavadoaka after seeing my poster. After seeing the work that Blue Ventures does through the Safidy programme, I was really pleased that it was getting some recognition at such a high level.
My elective in Andavadoaka is something that will stay with me forever, and none of it would have been possible without support from Blue Ventures and the RCOG. I am so grateful to both organisations for having helped make it all possible.