“What are you going to do when you retire?” a patient said to me. He turned out to be a Rotarian! “Do you know about the Rotary Doctor Bank?” Well, my wife and I had intended doing some voluntary work abroad but we did not know about RDB. The sort of commitment seemed suitable, other volunteering organisations seemed too long as an initial trial and so after selection, in 2001, Gillian and I went to Kamuli Mission Hospital in Uganda. We were met by Rotarians and taken to a guest house to await hospital staff taking us “up country” to Kamuli. Gillian, a biology teacher, was able to teach in the nearby secondary school and became a Rotary Foundation Volunteer. As a GP, I was able to work on the paediatric and medical wards and later, as a GP obstetrician, on the maternity ward, that and surgery would be optional for a GP. I learned, amongst other things, to do Caesarean sections, doing 149 before retiring again. It was necessary to come to terms with doing old style medicine, there being very limited pathology and X-ray facilities and of course malaria. Initially, I found it challenging, but after a month or so adapted to the high infant mortality and the limited expectations. What help I was able to give was greatly appreciated by staff and patients alike and “thanks for trying” was the common response amongst relatives when things go wrong.
I would thoroughly recommend taking up the challenge and going for more than one placement, if you can. We made a lot of friends in the community, found great job satisfaction and ended up making 13 trips up to 2010. You may become “hooked” on the experience!