By Rachel Gilbert
On Friday morning, Grace, Sarah and I accompanied Papa Martin (Grace’s host father) to the doctor’s office where he works as a gynecologist. Although Grace had worked there before, Sarah and I had no idea what to expect. When we donned some doctors’ coats, we knew we were in for a good day. Sarah was given the task of taking photos and Grace went off with Papa Martin, while I was assigned to shadow the other doctor working that day. I was a little nervous; I didn’t want to be asked to hand some important tool to the doctor and not be able to understand him in French! Luckily, my services weren’t needed. I did get to observe consultations with patients about all sorts of issues ranging from routine check-ups for pregnant women to an HIV positive patient to a woman with a vaginal infection. It felt strange to be allowed to sit in on such private meetings and have my presence go unquestioned by patients; in the United States this is unheard of.
However, it was amazing to witness how functional the medical center and doctors were even without many of the things we in the United States consider necessary. For example, there was not a computer in sight. Each patient came in with a small notebook, the same ones many children here bring to school, that had their full medical record inside. The doctor recorded notes there and signed off on prescriptions using a stamp with his signature and the date. It was also fascinating to see how different the sanitation measures were. For example, while the doctor changed gloves between each patient, the sheet on the examination table remained the same. I couldn’t help but reflect on what this said about Cameroon and the United States in terms of so-called “sanitation”; are we over-zealous to the point of paranoia in America, was this office lacking in basic sanitation, or is there a realistic point somewhere in between? I decided it must be the latter. Regardless, the rapport between patients and doctors was friendly and comfortable. Patients left with prescriptions and advice in hand, ready to start the healing process and get on with their day.
Back to top