Following her rotation experience, Claire Schumann now applies the perspective she gained in Kenya to current challenges, and does her best to widen her lens and consider the big picture.
For most of my life, I have lived in a bubble. I was fortunate to grow up in a happy home, attend a private Catholic school until college, travel on family vacations, and never worry about having food on the table, clean drinking water, or electricity in my house.
Even as a student pharmacist, I remained in a similar bubble, although this bubble was bigger than before. There were new interactions around every corner of campus and endless people to meet. I found myself in opportunities where I knew no one else and was pushed far enough from my comfort zone to begin to understand what it felt like to be uncomfortable or in unfamiliar situations.
But then I arrived in Eldoret, Kenya, via the Purdue Kenya Partnership APPE rotation, and my bubble totally and completely burst.
Learning to work in a new system
This was the first time that I experienced life in a totally different reality that was unlike anything I had previously been exposed to. For the first time, I was not like most others around me, and felt the inquisitive stares that seemed to ask, “What are you doing here? Who are you?” I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious—until I considered my presence in Kenya from a Kenyan’s perspective. Who am I to begin working in a foreign country and expect immediate acceptance?
Over the course of my 2-month internal medicine rotation, I demonstrated why I was really there, and showed my colleagues and patients that my intentions were to learn as a student pharmacist, develop my clinical problem-solving skills, and collaborate with other professionals in a completely new setting.
This was all part of my desire to focus on directly improving my ability to assist underserved populations in the short- and long-term. In the short-term, as a medical team member at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, I became fully integrated into the hospital’s patient care process and worked tirelessly alongside the Kenyan staff to address the many barriers patients in this setting faced.
The long-term lesson I learned was that adaptive problem solving is of utmost importance in resource-constrained settings like the hospital in Eldoret and other settings I anticipate working in throughout my career. I was forced to get creative as I tried to help my team navigate financial and administration barriers to treat patients effectively. In one case, I helped my team overcome stockouts of vital, yet costly medications like intravenous acyclovir for a patient with HSV encephalitis. While this may seem like a simple problem, there were numerous layers of challenges that had to be overcome to assist this particular patient. After much effort, we enacted a solution and got this patient the medication he desperately needed. It wasn’t an in-depth knowledge of pharmacotherapy that led to the successful discharge of the patient days later, it was an understanding of working through the health care system to get patients what they needed. This is just one example of how I was challenged to truly take ownership and advocate for the care of my patients, all while learning to collaborate in my team and create a lasting framework for the future.
Consider the big picture
I couldn’t be more thankful that this unique, challenging, and rewarding APPE rotation experience completely burst my bubble. Now, I apply the perspective I gained in Kenya to current challenges and do my best to widen my lens and consider the big picture. I encourage you to burst your bubble, whatever that may look like, and change your perspective to positively impact your community and the patients who depend on us.
Claire Schumann is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy and a member of the 2019–20 APhA–ASP National Communications Standing Committee.