The Western Sydney University School of Medicine gives students the opportunity to complete an international elective over the summer break. Baneen chose to join Professor of Paediatrics John Whitehall on a month-long visit to Bangladesh to experience healthcare provision in a developing country.
Health care in Bangladesh
“Bangladesh was an amazing experience,” says Baneen, who took part in ward rounds and completed patient examinations during the trip, practising and becoming more confident in her skills.
“I saw so many medical presentations that I have never seen in Australia – congenital, tropical; and diseases associated with the vast health inequities of developing countries – including cerebral palsy, congenital macrocephaly, rabies, arthrogryposis, and very rare diseases like Seckel syndrome. I was also fortunate enough to see a C-section and other surgeries including a breast lump removal.”
“It was absolutely remarkable to see how doctors navigate the challenging patient presentations despite the lack of resources,” Baneen says. “However, at times this meant that patients were not able to receive the best quality care, an example is having a child with bronchitis in a bed next to a child with jaundice or having a man with active tuberculosis (who had no personal protective equipment) in a ward shared with patients who did not have TB.
“Nonetheless, the ingenuity of healthcare professionals was remarkable.”
Experiencing the culture of Bangladesh
Baneen and her fellow students also visited local social enterprises that provide job opportunities for women with disabilities and trauma survivors. One such organisation was Basha Boutique, which helps women at risk of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, including trafficking. At Basha women gain job skills and the opportunity to develop into leaders and entrepreneurs in a healing, supportive environment, through the production of handmade crafts like bags and blankets.
“This provided a great learning opportunity. Despite limitations in funding and other resources, people were able to work together as a community to develop a way to bring back hope and safety to vulnerable women,” says Baneen. “It was lovely to see how these organisations were able to provide a safe environment for these women and to reignite hope and purpose for them.”
The student group then spent a week assisting with research and health checks in Haluaghat, a rural area of Bangladesh. “I was struck by the peacefulness of Haluaghat, especially in comparison to the bustling streets of the city,” says Baneen. “It was fascinating to experience village life, the people were so warm and welcoming and we were invited to take part in their Christmas preparations which included singing carols and traditional dancing – as well as preparing for the badminton championships!
“I met so many inspiring, passionate and determined people and health practitioners over the course of my elective in Bangladesh. I also learnt so much about Bangladesh, the country and culture. This experience has helped me to develop into a better person and hopefully a better medical student and future doctor too.”
How a scholarship helps build an exceptional resume
Baneen first applied for a scholarship so she wouldn’t have to work long hours to support herself, and could instead use the time to take part in extracurricular activities. She has attended Australian Medical Students’ Association conventions, was elected President of the Global Health Awareness Western Sydney Society, and completed an internship with the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner.
Baneen’s ambitions will positively impact health care in Australia. “My plan is to specialise as a Rural Generalist with advanced skills in Obstetrics and Gynaecology,” she says. “I also envision a future where I am involved in health advocacy and policy as well as some teaching and research.
“I would like to thank you for all of your continual support. I can’t believe I’m coming towards the end of my medical degree – these past years have been challenging but at the same time so rewarding.”
About the Tertiary Scholarship Program
The Sisters of Charity Foundation Tertiary Scholarship Program provides financial support so recipients can afford university or TAFE study expenses (course fees; textbooks; technology; and attending workshops, networking events and internships) as well as the cost of living on their own with no parental support. The scholarship lets them focus on their studies, rather than having to hold down multiple jobs to survive.
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