Morgan McLane is a junior in Lyman Briggs College studying human biology and nutritional science.
I spent my summer in Malawi, the warm heart of Africa. I had the incredible opportunity to partner with a non-profit called Hope Endeavors that works with HIV/Aids orphans and the Blantyre Malaria Project in partnership with MSU.
For 4 weeks I lived in the village of Chipusile at HOPE Village Care Center. Hope Village is currently the home to 30 children infected with HIV who receive the proper care they need to survive and thrive in spite of their illness. Hope Village also provides feeding programs for the village children as well as a poultry farm, maize field, and mill to benefit the surrounding community.
During my time at the HOPE Village, I helped organize clothing distributions to seven villages, helped with construction for the multi-purpose building that will be used as a kitchen and medical clinic, harvested 5 acres of maize, worked with 300 egg laying chickens to use for income generating projects and held educational support programs through USAID and Baylor Institute. During this trip, I was able to become fully immersed in the culture and Malawian way of life by living in the village. This experience expanded my worldview and taught me so much about myself.
The second 6 weeks of my time in Malawi was spent working with the Blantyre Malaria Project with Drs. Terrie Taylor and Karl Seydel from MSU. The Blantyre Malaria Project (BMP) conducts malaria research at the Queen Elisabeth Teaching Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. At the BMP I worked on a research project looking at blood transfusions and their effects on severe malaria patients. I was able to be a part of research for the first time, learning about malaria, a disease that affects nearly 207 million people each year. In 2012 the World Health Organization reported 627,000 deaths as a result of malaria, 90% being children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.
During my time in Malawi, I was able to use skills that I have obtained in my LBC biology lab and statistics classes at MSU. I conducted different statistical analyses to determine if there is an association between blood transfusions and a poor outcome in severe malaria patients. I was able to see how research is conducted and to learn all of the steps that are necessary to conduct successful research. I also was learning about the scientific writing process and am currently in the process of submitting a paper to the Malaria Journal.
I also spent time in the hospital, learning about different procedures and conditions. I was able to participate in daily rounding of the Labor Ward and be apart of the labor process, to assist in Clubfoot clinics, and to assist in physical therapy sessions for patients with Cerebral Pasley. I experienced the many challenges that a hospital in a developing country faces on a daily basis, whether it be lack of resources, physicians, or overcrowding.
One small project that I was able to work on was creating an educational pamphlet about malaria prevention in the local language, Chichewa. Being interested in global public health, I was ecstatic about this opportunity. I was able to use the information I’ve learned in my public health and epidemiology classes at MSU to create a useful pamphlet to educate mothers on how to best protect their children from malaria. I was able to implement the use of these pamphlets at Hope village where I taught the children about how malaria is spread, about the signs and symptoms of malaria, and about prevention techniques such as the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net. After the lesson, the 30 children eagerly helped me hang up their new insecticide treated nets.
Before coming on this trip I was planning on pursing a degree in medicine. Because of the exposure to research, medicine, surgeries, and rounding in the wards of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, I have an even greater passion and desire to pursue medicine and help fight for the lives of those living in poverty stricken communities with immense heath disparities.
This opportunity has been a once in a lifetime experience. I was able to step outside of my comfort zone, into a new culture, and experience life on a whole new level. These past 2 months spent in Malawi have taught me so much about the health care system, the world, and myself. I’m so blessed to have been welcomed so warmly into this country and I look forward to continuing my pursuit of a degree in medicine with a much deeper passion for helping to bring change and hope into the lives of the beautiful people of Malawi.