Student gains first-hand experience through clinical program abroad

Jamie Doctrow (in pink) , a Louisville sophomore, is studying abroad in Gaborone, Botswana this semester. Doctrow is participating in Gaborone’s clinical program as part of her study abroad requirements. 

Lauren Lorance

Broken doors and windows plague a Phase 2 medical clinic in a cold, African town. As patients swaddled in blankets await treatment, fighting the chilling temperatures in a building without heat, frenzied nurses rush to assist and diagnose the often long lines.

And students, like Louisville sophomore Jamie Doctrow, observe the clinic’s daily administering of blood tests and sensitive handling of the more serious diagnoses, taking note for the day when they’ll treat their own patients.

 Although Doctrow has been in Gaborone, Botswana, only four weeks, the 19-year-old biology and psychology major has already gained a first-hand look into the country’s clinical system, one that most only see in televised infomercials.

“It’s hard to imagine what the medical care system here is like until you’ve seen it for yourself,” Doctrow said. “Though it isn’t always the most organized and efficient, they make it work. They have no other choice.” Once a week, aside from taking 17 hours of classes at the University of Botswana, Doctrow participates in Gaborone’s clinical program as part of her study abroad requirements.

“I can see anything from simple diagnosis to immunizations to bandaging wounds to health education seminars,” Doctrow said.

 Doctrow estimates she will rotate among six or seven clinics, spending two weeks at each, before she returns to the United States in mid-December. But because she is not a trained medical student yet, Doctrow says she is limited in how she can help.

“One nurse did ask me to draw blood, though I of course had to say no,” Doctrow said. “However, I help in small ways like recording things, fetching gloves or weighing kids.”

Doctrow says she enjoys volunteering, reflected in her membership with Omega Phi Alpha on campus, even serving on the sorority’s mental health committee.

Paducah senior Mary Riley says her sorority sister personifies friendship, leadership and service — the organization’s three main principles.

“Jamie’s leadership and love for service and other people is shown by her studying abroad this semester,” Riley said. “We know she is making us proud.”

Doctrow incorporates service not only among OPA’s walls, but wherever she can, according to Louisville sophomore and sorority sister Mallory Schnell.

 “She is super determined and always puts other people’s needs before her own,” Schnell said. “Her love for volunteering is apparent in all parts of her life.”

 To Doctrow, she’s just doing what she can.

 “I just love to volunteer, so I’m always open to doing it anywhere,” she said.

 This flexibility serves well in a city where modernization is still trying to break through Africa’s long-standing rural backdrop.

 And Doctrow says Gaborone, or Gabs, as she affectionately calls the city, is the kind of place where she long had hopes of studying, not in Europe or somewhere she could easily vacation.

 “I’ve always been interested in Africa and secretly dreamed of coming here, but I didn’t ever think it would really happen,” Doctrow said.