Myesha Jemison, a pre-med student from Princeton University, has spent her summer vacation completing an international internship at the MRC/Wits Agincourt Research Unit in rural South Africa. Below is an interview about her experiences.
You can read the original Princeton post here.
Class year: 2018
Internship location: Agincourt, South Africa
Where are you interning and what has been your experience so far?
As a student who intends to attend medical school and has strong interests in global medicine and public health, I knew that I wanted to spend my summer engaging in research where these two areas intersected. After months of Google searches and sifting through the IIP website, I came to the conclusion that the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits Rural) shared my vision of medical research.
Wits Rural engages in research that considers the social aspects of the lives of individual people and populations. Their translational research identifies health-related problems and goes further to implement solutions. One of the projects I am working with now is a longitudinal study that hopes to investigate how adults over the age of 40 in Agincourt, South Africa, are aging by documenting alterations in their health statuses over time. With this research, Wits Rural desires to identify what health disorders and causes of death are prevalent in the area in order to ultimately develop programs to combat such issues.
What are some of the takeaways or lessons from your internship?
In terms of medicine, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
When comparing rural health care in the hospital where I interviewed patients to urban health care in America, I cannot help but to notice the blatant disparities that exist: insufficient resources, overworked medical professionals and underserved patients. It is truly saddening, yet it inspires me to act — I can already see myself coming back here.
Can you describe a favourite moment of your experience?
One of my most exciting experiences so far was waking up to three giraffes in my yard. Having lived in Virginia Beach for all of my childhood, the most exotic creature I have ever discovered in my yard was a turtle, so to see a giraffe really blew my mind.
On another note, I would have to say my most satisfying experience has been picking up on Tsonga, the local language. It changes the way I am able to interact with patients here who do not speak English. It is one thing to have someone translate conversations between myself and the woman whose blood pressure I’m taking, but being able to talk to her and ask her how she is doing in her own language reinforces a sense of trust.