Quang Tran - Medicine in Mongolia
At the age of 16 and having just finished my exams, I found that I had huge amounts of time on my hands and not the slightest idea of how to spend it. I knew that I would have to do something productive, but never thought in a million years that I would be spending two weeks half way across the world on a Medical project!
I first came across Projects Abroad via my school where they had a stand that told me all about it. The idea of volunteering in another country really appealed to me. After going home I researched more on the internet about the projects that I could do and before I knew it I was already filling in the application form! Mongolia really stood out for me, because it was a country which I have heard much about and seen before a couple of times on TV. I really wanted to learn so much more about the country, so off I popped onto a plane that headed straight to Mongolia.
My Medical placement in Mongolia
Throughout my 2 weeks in Mongolia, I had the opportunity to visit many hospitals and clinics around the city of Ulaanbaatar, so that I could learn about the Mongolian healthcare system. It was quite extraordinary to see the differences between the healthcare system in the UK compared to the healthcare system there. For example in Mongolia hospitals all vary in size and could specialise in one specific area or to a specific group of people. This is different to the UK, because hospitals here are all very large and designed to treat anyone.
During the project we would follow a doctor around the hospital to learn about the different wards and patients that they treat and how they are treated. At the Shastin Central Hospital the doctor showed us how to change a bandage for an appendix wound.
In the diagnosing ward we observed an endoscopy. This is a sort of camera that you insert into the body to examine a hollow organ or captivity, which is displayed on a screen. The endoscopy we saw involved putting the endoscope down the patient’s throat and looking inside the interior of the stomach. On the screen we saw that part of the patient’s stomach was bleeding, after which we saw the doctors taking a tissue sample of the stomach which would be sent to the pathology department for a diagnostic test. Watching that was a really good experience and was one of the many parts of this trip that inspired me to become a doctor.
Another highlight from my two weeks in Mongolia was volunteering to help the cancer patients in the paediatric hospital. There we helped entertain the children by reading stories to them or balloon fighting with them, which was really fun and I really enjoyed it. It was really nice to see how lively and excitable they became despite their condition.
For me the best part of the trip was having the chance to observe surgeries. In the UK this would have been impossible so this was a real privilege. Over the course of the trip I was lucky to see 6 different surgeries all of which were incredibly interesting. One of the surgeries I saw was a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This surgery involved removing the gall bladder from the liver because gall stones had built up in there. It was fascinating because what I learnt in school about the human anatomy was being put into practice which made it so much more understandable and great to watch. This is something I believe was only possible in Mongolia, which was why I found it my favourite part of the trip.
On days that we had free time we had the chance to visit all of the must see sights. On the Saturday we had the chance to visit the Chinggis Khan Statue complex, which was a statue standing over 100 feet tall. That was really an impressive sight to see, particularly after climbing to the top of the statue. From there we could see the beautiful Mongolian countryside.
In the afternoon we travelled to the national park where we had the opportunity to ride horses. This was brilliant. I got to ride like the wind at blistering speeds across the national park. It was one of the scariest but greatest experiences I have ever had.
In the evenings we would go out to many fancy Mongolian restaurants and get a taste for the Mongolian cuisine. I loved this part of the trip. I loved the food in Mongolia and I loved the fact that we would be treated to something completely different every night.
My favourite restaurant was a place where you could help yourself to a load of raw food and sauces and then take it to the counter where they would cook your food and turn it into a great stir fry on this huge grill for you whilst you get to watch. The only thing was that you get fined for not finishing your meal and after my 3rd helping of food, where my stomach had well overreached its limit halfway into the bowl, this fine did not make the second half of this helping convenient for me!
Overall the whole Mongolian experience was brilliant, and the sad thing was two weeks went by so fast and I was saying goodbye to Mongolia just when I had gotten used to the city. It was the best two weeks of my life and I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering medicine in the future.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Programme Advisors.