AU Senior Reflects on Summer as a Medical Volunteer in Africa

Augustana University senior Natalie Walter works in Ghana, Africa, during summer 2016.

Senior Natalie Walter helps a patient and earns hands-on experience during her summer as a medical volunteer in Ghana, Africa.

In conjunction with the 2016 undergraduate summer research program at Augustana, AU senior Natalie Walter, a biology and psychology major from Rochester, Minnesota, spent the summer volunteering at the Cape Coast University Hospital in Ghana and doing a project for the Public Health Program in Dodowa.

We caught up with her to learn more about her experiences.

Q. Tell us about your summer.

A. This summer I had the time of my life volunteering in Ghana, Africa, for two months. The first month I worked with the medical program at Cape Coast University Hospital.

My first week was spent in the maternity ward where I observed live deliveries and C-sections every day.

My second and third weeks were spent in the emergency department. I learned how to give injections; [provide] IVs, splints, nebulizer treatments; clean and bandage up wounds from injuries; and treat malaria patients.

My fourth week was spent on the surgical ward where I saw surgeries and helped with post-ops and pre-ops.

Every week I would spend a day in leprosy camp, bandaging wounds and monitoring the community members’ health. Finally, fellow volunteers and I spent a day painting a school and then playing soccer and volleyball with the kids.

Q. You also worked in public health – what was that like?

A. My second month was in the Public Health Program in Dodowa. This project involved going into the surrounding communities to help in child welfare clinics and schools.

At child welfare clinics I weighed babies and gave them vaccinations, as well as implanting birth control and providing consultations to the mothers. At schools I gave talks on personal hygiene, HIV, malaria, and puberty. After the talks, I bandaged up the kids’ wounds, took blood pressures, gave malaria tests, and determined blood type. My group of fellow volunteers and I also spent a day painting an orphanage.

Q. What a summer! How would you describe the experience overall?

A. Overall, I learned a great deal from this experience that has allowed me to grow in numerous ways. The doctors and nurses allowed me to develop my medical knowledge by quizzing me and giving me assignments on body systems and illnesses. This experience has fueled my interest in health care and in other volunteer opportunities abroad, such as the Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders. In addition, the experience opened my eyes to public health opportunities. Therefore, this experience has pushed me towards MD/MPH programs in order to combine my newfound passion of public health.