personal background essay
For Commonwealth Scholarship application:
Personal statement: Please supply a personal statement, of no more than 500 words, that summarises the ways in which your personal background has encouraged you to want to make a contribution to development in your country. You should indicate areas in which you have already contributed, such as in overcoming any personal or community barriers to higher education
About three years ago, I was working in a rural provincial hospital in South Africa. I was struck by the numbers of patients still presenting with advanced stages of infectious disease: Aids, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and malaria being the most common. Despite all the advances made in prevention, diagnostics and treatment of infectious diseases, somehow these patients still slipped through the many cracks of the health care system. I also spent time working in my hospital's HIV clinic, where I observed the impact of this disease on my community and discovered my passion for making a difference in the field of infectious diseases.
South Africa adopted the UN 90-90-90 targets in 2014, which proposes that 90% of people living with HIV should know their status; 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV should be on sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90% of all people on antiretroviral therapy should have HIV viral suppression. If we want to achieve these targets by 2020, and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, it will take a major effort from all role players in the health sector. Although working in the HIV clinic and seeing my individual patients improve was a very rewarding experience, I realised that I could make a bigger contribution to the fight against HIV/Aids if I could contribute to the development of the HIV programme on a district or provincial level.
In my current position as Medical Advisor at an NGO focusing on the HIV/Aids/TB programme in South Africa, I am tasked to provide technical assistance to 13 public hospitals and 95 clinics in our district. I am faced with the gaps in the health care system in my low resource setting on a daily basis. Not only are there public health and systems issues, but also a lack of clinical knowledge amongst doctors and nurses when it comes to management of patients with complicated disease conditions, drug interactions and multiple co-morbidities.
By analysing the monthly data and doing regular facility visits and assessments, I am able to identify poor performing areas and assist with developing and implementing quality improvement projects that relate to each of the three "90's". I have contributed to the 3rd 90 - viral suppression - by training and mentoring doctors and nurses, identifying and auditing files of patients with unsuppressed viral loads, and establishing and supporting multi-disciplinary teams for patients on third line antiretroviral therapy in two of the biggest hospitals in the district.
I am motivated to become even more involved in advanced clinical care or patients with complicated infectious diseases, as well as in research relating to the prevention and control of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, and obtaining a Master's degree in Tropical Medicine and International Health will bring me a step closer to this goal.