Exchange program opens student's eyes to medical field outside the U.S.

Laura Millage taking a patient's blood pressure.
Laura Millage. right, practiced taking patients' blood pressure prior to the start of a health expo in Kgope.

By Riley Hiscocks

Laura Millage, junior in microbiology and genetics with a minor in public health, gained valuable knowledge during her eight weeks in Botswana as part of the Council on International Educational Exchange program, which is a partner to Iowa State University’s study abroad program. 

Located in southern Africa, Gaborone, Botswana, is home to the University of Botswana where Millage participated in the community health program along with 22 other students from different United States universities. 

“During my time at the university, I took public health classes where we learned about the healthcare system in Botswana, as well as experienced it in a clinical setting. I also had the chance to take a Setswana language class,” Millage said. “For clinical, we spent over 50 hours in four different local clinics both inside the city and in a nearby village observing a variety of medical professionals. Additionally, our group and medical students from the university performed a community assessment and held a health expo in a rural village.”

With hopes of attending medical school, Millage said her summer in Botswana has given her a greater passion and drive for her future education and career in the medical field. 

“Being able to experience how a different country practices healthcare and to see how their healthcare system works was amazing. Of course it is not the same as the United States, but I really believe the country utilizes their resources as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Millage said. “One of the biggest surprises was they do not use digital or electronic medical records. Everything is done on paper, and it is the patient’s responsibility to keep track of their records.”

When Millage was not in a classroom or clinical setting, she was able to explore all that Botswana had to offer. Her favorite destination was located in Kasane where the group of students visited Victoria Falls and interacted with locals. 

“The people that I interacted with while in Africa were some of the kindest and inclusive people I have ever met. I appreciate how they take their time with tasks and do not live life constantly racing against the clock,” Millage said.

She also had the opportunity to experience the Gabronoe and Mokolodi game reserves, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Chobi National Park, and learn more about the country’s culture at the Bahurutshe Cultural Village. 

“Overall, the experience was amazing and gave me the opportunity to learn about another part of the world and its people, health, medicine and science, but also more about myself,” she said.