My internship, though through the Ethiopian Diabetes Association (EDA), largely takes places at Tikur Anbessa Hospital or Black Lion Hospital. The EDA and its members first provided me with an overview of my tasks both with the Association and at the hospital. The EDA strives to educate and empower individuals with diabetes to understand the illness and its management. The EDA office is found in the heart of Bole, a vibrant sub-city within Addis Ababa.
Though a small community, the individuals within the association make every effort to meet the needs of their members on various levels. The EDA works in cooperation with the hospital, well-known individuals, health centers, doctors, and many others to achieve their goals.
At the end of summer 2012, I decided that I wanted to take my summer internship project on understanding the prevalence of diabetes in developing countries to the next level by doing a case study. I choose Ethiopia, my native country, to conduct my case study. Next, I contacted numerous Ethiopian professors both here in the US and in Ethiopia. I later discovered the EDA when researching additional contacts regarding prospective project. I sent a message to the EDA through their ‘Contact Us’ page and received a response from Misrak, the program manager, who assisted in creating this opportunity. As an intern, my responsibilities are two-fold. First, I observe both at the hospital and EDA office.
Observing and being able to hear first-hand from individuals with diabetes will allow me to understand the unspoken symptoms of this chronic illness. I will be able to hear from patients and their family members stories that are unwritten in medical records and the role that factors that are often unaccounted for such as cultural pressures and family. In addition to observing, I will also be collecting information on diabetics and their diet/nutrition. This information will allow me to focus my scope of interest. I have prepared a questionnaire for patients to complete at the Black Lion Hospital’s Diabetes Clinic.
My first week was almost nothing that I expected. I had come ready to begin at the hospital and talk to patients. Instead, I found that I had to write a proposal and have it approved by the Department of Internal Medicine Head (the Diabetes Center is under this department) before being allowed to distribute any questionnaires. Additionally, I had to go back and forth to the Dean of Undergraduates office to obtain a letter stating that my internship had been approved and I could begin. These logistical matters took up a great deal of my first week so I wasn’t able to speak with any of the patients at the clinic just yet. On the bright side, the doctors and other people that I spoke with were extremely helpful and understanding.
In addition to learning about diabetes in Ethiopia, which is at the heart of the academic front of my internship, I expect to learn a lot more. Learning may take any form as long as we are willing to accept that there is still much that we can learn from those around us. Thus, I expect to learn from the doctors, nurses, EDA members, patients, and anyone else I may encounter throughout my time here in Ethiopia.