Fellow Spotlight: Matt O'Keefe

Matt O'Keefe recently volunteered during FIMRC's SIHF Sessions I and II. He is currently a student at Vanderbilt University majoring in Medicine, Health, and Society, and minoring in Corporate Strategy. During his 2 months at Project Bumwalukani in Uganda, Matt had the opportunity to immerse himself in the community, and ended his experience with a great appreciation of Ugandans, and the nature that surrounds them. Below is his reflection on his experience.

Project Bumwalukani has truly been an adventure I will never forget. From testing patients for malaria to rafting on the Nile, my two months here were filled with experiences I couldn’t get anywhere else.

We start the week by heading to the clinic on Monday. That means its market day. Several hundred people fill Bushika trading center selling everything that’s available in Bududa. The street is crowded with taxis selling foods, while the trading center itself sells everything from soccer cleats to toothpaste. You can even watch chipati, a fried tortilla you will come to love, be made by one of the vendors. Once you get to the clinic you will help serve nearly one hundred and fifty patients. Monday is easily the most exciting day of the week. Starting Tuesday, market day has moved onto the next trading center, and while the number of patients is lower, it is not by much.  My favorite part of the clinic was working in the lab, helping test patients for HIV and malaria or working in the pharmacy and actually helping to give out prescriptions to patients.

The weekend brings a variety of options to choose from. You can go to the nearby town of Mbale on a matatu, or even go on safari at Murchison Falls National Park and see animals in their natural habitat. I was able to see lions, crocodiles, giraffes, and hundreds of water buffalo, antelope, warthogs, hippos, and dozens of elephants. This was far better than any zoo I could imagine.

My personal favorite was rafting in Jinja. Jinja is an exciting city with plenty of exciting things to do to do, but rafting needs to be at the top of the list. The class V rapids were exhilarating, and the Nile was the perfect temperature to go swimming in (both intentionally and not). Uganda has an amazing amount of opportunities to experience things that I could never hope to do in America, both at the clinic and abroad, and you need to see it for yourself.