Resident Rotation at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana

A resident recounts her time in Botswana


February 2015

The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania radiology residency program offers a six-week rotation through Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana. I was fortunate enough to participate in this elective from January-February 2014. The following is a short summary of my experience.

A little background: The Botswana-UPENN Partnership was established in 2001, with the goal of preventing and treating HIV/AIDS related complications. BUP hires medical staff physicians for Princess Marina Hospital (PMH) and outlying village clinics; these physicians work in complement with PMH hired physicians. Penn residents from different disciplines are chosen to rotate through for up to 8 weeks.

I arrived in January 2014 after flying from New York City to Johannesburg, and then on to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. My flatmates included medical students, dermatology and internal medicine residents. We stayed in flats rented by the university. In order to practice medicine in Botswana, we had to apply and undergo a vetting process, after which we were issued temporary medical licenses.

PMH is an open air ward, designed to mitigate the spread of TB. Every day at 7 am, we would walk to the PMH to attend morning rounds. The call teams from overnight would present two admissions. As part of the diagnostics component of the presentation, I would assist in reviewing the plain films or CT images printed on film on the light box.

For the first few days during my time at PMH, I attended medicine walk rounds with my Penn internal medicine flatmates. I was able to review films at the bedside with the team. After walk rounds, I would head to the radiology suite, at which time I would review film, CT scans (PMH has a 16 slice CT scanner), ultrasounds and basic fluoroscopic examinations.

After reviewing my findings with my attending, I would generate a handwritten report, to be typed by the transcriptionist. The reports would return to me for editing and re-review. Additionally, medicine and surgical house staff would filter in and out of the radiology suite, requesting review of images and discussion of differentials. In this era of PACS, visitors to the radiology department in the US are rare. However, in Gaborone, house staff routinely requested radiology consults.

The pathology at Princess Marina was fascinating. Florid imaging manifestations of tuberculosis and HIV sequelae were topics I had only come across in textbooks. I will also never forget a case we had of a 23 year-old woman with multifocal cannonball pulmonary metastases and brain metastases of unknown primary. Biopsy was not readily available. An astute physician recommended obtaining beta-HCG: 60,000. The patient passed shortly thereafter from choriocarcinoma.

As a women’s imager, I was interested in their utilization of mammography, but unfortunately the unit was not functioning during my time there. However, I was able to perform breast ultrasound. At Princess Marina, the technologists issue a written read, rather than the physicians. Dr Sesay, my attending radiologist, originally from Sierra Leone, trained in Nigeria and South Africa.

Sampling of different cases

Outside of work, my flatmates and I were able to explore Capetown, South Africa; Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; and Kasane safari in northern Botswana. Off the coast of South Africa, we visited Robbin Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

All in all, I had an incredible experience. The people of Botswana were kind and generous. The support staff in radiology, from the technologists to the transcriptionists, was amazing. The warmth and kindness in the hearts of the people I met — I won’t ever forget that feeling.

Note: Click on image below to enlarge.

By Amana Akhtar, MD

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