On the Job (and on Safari) in Zambia

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Tiffany Ruan poses with singers from local village

Tiffany Ruan (third from left) and Xzavier Killings ’16 with performers from Mwandi who sing while the traditional healer of the village dances.

In only the span of a month, I’ve watched four vaginal deliveries, the insertion of a uretic catheter and an autopsy. Wow!

This summer, I traveled to Africa with Dr. Secret, Dr. Case, and eight other Davidson students for the Davidson in Zambia program.

After a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by another two hour flight to Livingstone, Zambia, we finally arrived. We started off in Livingstone, where we visited iconic Victoria Falls and the historical museum of Zambia. We went to several traditional Zambian restaurants and tried new food, including some yummy Croc-bites, Mopane worms and Nshima, a popular national dish made from maize flour. We also went on a mini-safari in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and saw one of the “big five” animals of Africa — the rhinoceros. After about a week in Livingstone, we headed off to Mwandi, Zambia.

Tiffany Ruan '17 working on fabric project with woman in Mwandi

Ruan works with a woman in Mwandi to bead a fabric cover for sale in the local market.

The rural village of Mwandi is in the Western Province of Zambia and is located near the border of Botswana and Namibia. For three weeks, we rotated between the Mwandi Mission Hospital, the Mother and Child Health Clinic (MCH), the Antiretroviral Therapy Clinic (ART) and the Outpatient Department (OPD).

My journey began in the MCH, where I worked alongside two nurses and a midwife. I helped take vitals, including blood pressure and weight, and worked with the midwife in performing pre-natal checkups. At OPD and the ART Clinic, I also helped take vitals, including blood pressure, pulse, weight, and temperature, and during rounds, we rounded with a doctor in four different wards (women’s, men’s, children’s and maternity).

In the hospital, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about different diseases that afflict a large population of Mwandi, including pneumonia, anemia and HIV/AIDS. Outside of the mission hospital, we also traveled to the village and visited the land of the local chief, who is responsible for handling civil disputes and cases in the area. We also had the opportunity to see two traditional African healers in the village and learned a lot about what they cure and how they carry out their craft. During our time in Mwandi, we also volunteered to paint the tuberculosis ward.

Tiffany Ruan '17 in African savannah with elephant in background

On safari: Ruan, a member of the Davidson chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. poses with an elephant (one of the organization’s symbols) while touring Chobe National Park in Botswana.

In these past three weeks, I’ve learned a lot not only about the medicine and healthcare in Zambia, but also about the Lozi culture, the language, and Mwandi’s history. After interacting with the people of Zambia, I learned about how open people can be to sharing their life stories.

After we left Mwandi, we headed to Botswana. In Botswana, we went on a total of five safaris in Chobe National Park and saw three of the big five animals of Africa — lion, African elephant and Cape buffalo. We also learned a lot about other different animals that are prominent in Africa, including impalas, kudus and hippopotamuses.

After being in Africa for a month, we flew out of Livingstone, Zambia on August 1, 2016 and said goodbye to the people of Africa. This has been one of the greatest and most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.

This experience has been emotionally challenging and rewarding as I had the opportunity to work and serve in the mission hospital as well as learn about the Zambian culture and language.

I just wanted to thank the people of Mwandi, Zambia for allowing us to be part of their community and to allow us to learn about their people, history, and heritage.

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About Author

Tiffany Ruan '17

Tiffany Ruan '17 is a chemistry major and is a first-generation college student who calls Chicago home. She received a Dean Rusk grant and a Gilman Scholarship to participate in the Davidson in Zambia program.

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