Summer Field Experience Spotlight: South Africa to Argentina with CFHI

Global Health Students

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Two UC San Diego Global Health students returned from the field this summer after completing their Field Experience with Child Family Health International (CFHI) , a non-profit organization that provides students the unique opportunity of global health education, international exposure, and a rich-immersed learning setting.  Students truly learn about the Global Health challenges of their chosen setting while living in their community.

Two Global Health students share their experience…

Shivani Mehta

Cape Town, South Africa


Shivani was a medical volunteer for Victoria Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. For three weeks, she rotated among the internal medicine department, intensive care unit, and the surgical unit. She was able to shadow a doctor, and aid in simple procedures. As an example, she performed an electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess the muscular functions of a patient's heart. In addition, with the help of her doctor, Shivani was able to differentiate between the sounds of a patient with healthy lungs versus a patient with lungs filled with fluid and mucus. In addition to interning at the hospital, Shivani was able to go on rural development and sustainable medical outreach program through Elgin Learning Foundation in a village called Grabouw. She walked from one rural village to another to educate and stress the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention, sanitation, STI/STD prevention, fetal alcohol syndrome, and maternal/child health to many individuals who are of low levels of education and income.


There were many challenges that Shivani faced during her time at Victoria Hospital, 


"I was appalled by the lack of prevention policies implemented by the hospital and government of Cape Town. There was a poor use of proper preventative methods such as simply wearing gloves and masks during doctor-to-patient or nurse-to-patient interactions. For example, due to this needle stick injuries is a huge challenge in Victoria Hospital due to the lack of wearing gloves while drawing blood. In addition, there were many moments where I felt that many patients did not truly understand the depth and detail of their medical issues and how to improve their health. Often times, doctors talk extremely fast and depend on the use of medical terms while their interactions, in which the patient has a hard time understanding due to the lack of knowledge and possible language barriers."


Aside from volunteering in the hospital, Shivani participated in a rural development and sustainable medical outreach program through Elgin Learning Foundation in the Grabouw village. In this program, Shivani was required to educate the population on HIV/AIDS prevention, sanitation, STI/STD prevention, fetal alcohol syndrome, and maternal/child health.  Shivani felt that she most impacted her audience by stressing the importance of these health issues; Shivani communicated with strong emotion and a sense of urgency, all in an effort for the families to listen and learn.

After completing her Field Experience, Shivani reflected on her own life, conveying that she is incredibly grateful for her good health and her daily privileges.  More importantly, Shivani felt that she was able to instill much-needed hope into many. Shivani intends to tie her Field Experience to her senior thesis and research symposium, where she plans on further analyzing patterns and trends of HIV/AIDS and TB and their impact on South African population.


Zani Roberts

Cordoba, Spain


UC San Diego senior, Zani Roberts, has examined the societies and cultures of over 30 different countries around the world.  Upon returning from her world travels, Zani felt inspired to work toward affecting change in our every day healthcare so she decided to pursue a degree in Global Health in preparation for a career in Primary Care. Most recently, Zani was able to apply her passion for medicine and healing during her Field Experience in Cordoba, Argentina, CFHI’s  5-week Primary Care and Social Medicine Program.


Zani spent her mornings as a clinical volunteer at the San Roque public hospital where she used her interpersonal skills to connect with the patients and to forge meaningful connections with the staff, all in an effort to develop as a future medical practitioner.


"I was inspired by their commitment to service and the way they fought to keep the public hospitals free and accessible to the people…the passion of the people was the most moving aspect of the experience to me."


In the afternoons Zani attended classes where she learned about endemic diseases, Argentina’s culture and medical system, and the necessary medical/clinical Spanish language skills. In her free time, Zani met with the medical community to talk about Argentina’s medical system and history.  Zani was more than appreciative of the mentoring that went beyond her daily shift and which allowed her to fully immerse herself in the culture. She also had the opportunity to visit many beautiful locations in Argentina including Iguazu Falls and Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires.

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