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Understanding the Senegalese Health Care System and Development: Leandre Niyokwizera ’18 at L’hopital Philippe Maguilene Senghor in Senegal

Facility of L’hopital Philippe Maguilen Senghor. Photo credit: Taken by Leandre Niyokwizera, 2017.

Senegal is  one of a number of developing countries with increasing need to improve their health care system. In recent years, Senegal has had promising results after implementing the Health Quality Improvement program, which aims to resolve the deficit of health care providers and medical resources.

For my final co-op, I traveled to Senegal to learn how the health system works and volunteer in a hospital. To do so, I teamed up with an NGO called lovevolunteers and a hospital (L’hopital Philippe Maguilene Senghor ) in Dakar, Senegal. This experience allowed me to see first-hand how the medical system of Senegal really works.

The mission of the hospital is to provide healthcare to people in need of treatments and to improve the quality of life for the Senegalese people. My roles and responsibilities changed through out the co-op. For the first two weeks I was placed in a pediatric department at the hospital where I was simply taking blood pressure and temperature of kids from 0 – 5 years old. However, a language barrier limited me to put my skills and experiences to a good use. The main spoken language at the hospital is Wolof and the official language for the population of Senegal.

After two weeks working at Pediatric Department, I was placed into the Hospitalization Department where a language barrier wasn’t as much of a problem. My role and responsibilities at the hospitalization department was to assist doctors and nurses with their duties. These responsibilities included treating wounds, perfusion, vaccinations and assisting patients with whatever they needed. I was able learn these skills with proper training.

My working title at hospital was as a medical intern and this allowed me to work amongst other medical students training to become nurses, doctors, and other medical professions. The hospital welcomes medical professionals, medical students and pre-med students from around the world and with all different backgrounds. Through this exchange, it is their hope to increase health efficacy and quality of life for the Senegalese people. At the pediatric department patients came for regular check-ups and for medical diagnoses. We analyzed and diagnosed a lot of malaria cases from the children of age 0-5, the doctors explained that the number is normal because “summer is the malaria season” in Senegal.

Health workers at L’hopital Philippe Maguilen Senghor. Photo credit: Taken by Leandre Niyokwizera, 2017.

Working the remainder of my co-op at hospitalization department, I experienced a lot of wounds from both accidents and fights as well as other health scares such as malaria, anemia, Aids and etc. Malaria patients were hospitalized more than any other group of illnesses. The facility is usually crowded and  very small in size for the many patients admitted on a day-to-day basis.

As a premed student, I wanted to work at a hospital that would provide a contrast on how medicine in developing countries differ from developed countries. Seeing the gaps and the differences would potentially help me understand why healthcare systems are implemented in different communities. My goal with pursuing a career in medicine or healthcare is to be able to contribute to the improvement of healthcare development in East Central Africa, where poverty remains high.

Written by

Leandre S. Niyokwizera is a fourth year Biomedical Science student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs Ohio. While studying Biomedical Science, Leandre is obtaining a degree in the French language. Through his undergraduate career, Leandre has worked at the Antioch College Foundry Theater, at a High School in Chicago, at a pediatric clinic in northern California, and more recently worked at a hospital in Senegal. He hopes to continue endeavors in graduate school for medicine related work (administration or medical practice). He is interested in working toward health development in Eastern Africa.

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