When I began planning my project I was undecided on which area of the world I wanted to travel to, and what aspect of dentistry to focus on. After hearing a presentation from Work the World (WtW) at the BDSA Conference 2011, I looked at their website, which helped me narrow it down to Nepal or Sri Lanka. The prospect of the Village Healthcare Add-on helped me decide and myself and two friends started to plan our trip to Nepal with WtW (A message from Work the World: we now offer Village Healthcare Add-ons in most of out destinations).
The WtW team were helpful and supportive both in the UK office and when we reached Pokhara. We were also given personal login details to MyTrip, an online placement planner, which includes an interactive timeline that made preparation for the trip easy. We were in regular correspondence with the highly organised staff in the UK running up to the trip. When we arrived in Pokhara, we were greeted at the airport, and throughout the stay the friendly team made sure we had everything we needed, yet still allowed us plenty of independence.
Our placement included two weeks in a large teaching hospital and a week in a remote mountain village. The hospital is one of the main private hospitals in Nepal and Nepali people travel miles to receive treatment there. We were welcomed into the dental outpatient department and began work straight away; observing for the first few days then once we had proved out competence, assisting with procedures.
We also got the chance to observe a maxillary carcinoma excision in theatre, take part in ward rounds and spend time with the specialist prosthodontist and orthodontist. The hospital staff were knowledgeable and very friendly. The young dentist that I shadowed over the first few days kindly invited us to her wedding; this will stay with me as one of my favourite experiences from the trip!
Before leaving the hospital, we had a meeting with the Dean of the hospital who assured us that we were welcome to go back and visit any time. After spending only two weeks there I felt like part of the team!
We stayed in the WtW house in Pokhara, with twelve other elective students. This gave the opportunity to learn from their previous experiences and meet friends for life. The house is only a five minute taxi ride to the beautiful Lakeside which has lots of bars and restaurants to visit in the evenings. We celebrated Nepali New Year while we were there — Moondance and Busy Bee were our favourite Lakeside bars! Lakeside, the main strip surroundingm the beautiful lake in the centre of the city, is full of activities for the weekends and there is plenty to do if you want to extend your stay. I went paragliding over the Lake itself, the scenery was amazing.
Although we were all sad to leave the house, it was lovely to meet our host family when we travelled out on the Village Healthcare Add-On. There was a guide from the village to show you the best places and help you throughout the day. As dental students we got the opportunity to visit local primary schools, screen for dental disease and give simple toothbrushing advice. You have to meet the village people to appreciate their way of life and the overwhelming sense of happiness among them. It was a privilege to share time with them.
Nepal is a beautiful country packed full of things to do and see and made easy by lovely people, it was the perfect place to study on my elective.