In January 2019, Scientist Training Programme (STP) trainees Harry Slinger and Tom Curtis took the opportunity to travel to Tanzania to work at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) for their elective period. During their stay, they gave a series of lectures on imaging physics and radiation safety; performed quality assurance tests on KCMC X-ray equipment and completed a small patient radiation dose audit. Electives are an essential component of the STP as they provide trainees with the opportunity to expand their personal and professional horizons by working in a different healthcare setting from the one experienced day to day.
The typical Tanzanian working day began at 07:30 with a lecture to some trainee radiologists. The topics covered involved magnetic resonance imaging physics, X-ray imaging and radiobiology, and were well received. Afterwards, radiology quality assurance and lecture planning was usually organised, as well as coordinating with the engineering department to source KCMC-owned radiation dose meters. Evenings usually consisted of a quick swim at the local outdoor pool and dinner in Moshi town, complete with sunset views of Mount Kilimanjaro at the former railway station, accompanied by other medical students staying at KCMC.
Patient radiation dosimetry was not routinely performed at KCMC, and with an additional CT scanner being installed as we arrived, I was keen to impart on the department a notion of optimisation on their scanning protocols. Tom and I developed a patient dosimetry form for planar X-ray examinations as well as CT, and performed a small audit on common X-ray views: chest and abdomen. We found that the radiation doses delivered to patients were comparable to other hospitals across Tanzania (1).
After four whirlwind weeks working at KCMC, it was time to say goodbye to new friends and colleagues and become the tourists that we had so often seen wondering in groups around town. Over the next week, Tom chose to go on safari to the vast local national parks, including the Serengeti; whereas I chose to climb Kilimanjaro. Both were experiences we will remember for the rest of our lives. Many thanks go to Health Education England North East and Northumbria NHS Trust for enabling our trip, and to Scope magazine for our recently published article (2). I encourage all STP trainees to take a leap of faith with their electives and push through their comfort barries by taking the opportunity to go somewhere new overseas.
1. Masoud AO, Muhogora WE and Msaki PK. Assessment of patient dose and optimization levels in chest and abdomen CR examinations at referral hospitals in Tanzania. Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics, 2015; 16: 435-441, doi: 10.1120/jacmp.v16i5.5614.
2. Slinger H and Curtis TA. A Tanzanian Elective. SCOPE, December 2019 (on-line).