Be The Good: Sireen Momani

REED’s Be The Good program provided funding for Sireen Momani’s recent service trip to Malawi. She provided various medical services at the country’s only tertiary care emergency department. This trip was organized by Prisma Health Emergency Medicine Residency, South Carolina’s largest private, non-profit healthcare system, to bring medical residents and life-changing medical techniques to underserved communities.

Sireen shared a bit about her experience with us.

*Trigger warning: healthcare issues

 

What did a typical day look like while on this trip?

Each day, I woke up to catch the sunrise with a cup of coffee outside. My trip occurred during the rainy season in Malawi, so the days were cool, and the mornings were beautiful. Then, I put on my scrubs and prepared to trek to the Adult Emergency Trauma Center at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The walk to the hospital took roughly ten minutes and allowed us to experience the hustle and bustle of Malawi. Each morning, you could see local vendors set up shop on the side of the road, selling anything you could think of. 

After arriving at the hospital, we attended morning sign-out and caught up on the overnight events. Then, I went to my assigned zone and began seeing patients. I had wonderful nurses who helped translate the community’s native language, Chichewa, into English for me. 

Each patient carried a “health passport,” which served as their health record and allowed us to communicate effectively with other specialties. This way, each patient received the unique treatments and medications they required. 

The tasks varied greatly depending on the zone we served that day. Resuscitation was the highest acuity zone and was often used to deal with traumas, cardiac arrests and more. At the end of the day, we walked through with the night team to hand off all the medical cases we saw that day and review what tasks needed to be accomplished overnight.


Why are the services you provided in Malawi vital to the community you served?

Our time spent in Malawi was intended not only to help continue building the Adult Emergency Trauma Center but also to invest time in training the local registrars and hospital staff in trauma care. By teaching new methods in the field of ultrasound, procedure methods and advanced trauma life support, we were able to instill skills that would last long after we left. We hope that these lessons will be shared amongst the Blantyre people and hospital staff and that they will continue to shape a self-sufficient community capable of providing care to its residents.

What was your favorite day or event of the trip?

After a week of long days at the hospital, we took a trip up to Liwonde National Park, where we spent two days tucked away in the African bush. We were able to spend some time enjoying the magic of Malawi’s nature, watching cheetahs and hippos and dodging curious baboons. It was a change of pace compared to the time we spent in the heart of Blantyre, Malawi, a much busier and crowded city. In Liwonde, I would sit on the porch outside my tent and hear the hippos munching as I enjoyed some coffee from my small canteen filled with borehole water. 

In Emergency Medicine, our days are filled with endless alarms, beeping and notifications, and it often feels like the noises follow you even when you leave work. This weekend was one where we truly were at peace in the heart of nature and surrounded by some of the most valued treasures of Malawi.

Why did you decide to go on this trip?

Global health has always been a passion of mine, and I was intent on pursuing it when in residency. I wanted to devote time to finding my niche in global health and figuring out what avenue I wanted to pursue within this specialty.

Malawi was the first global health experience I embarked on during my residency. I specifically chose it after researching the setting I would be working in and the type of care we would be providing. To me, it was essential to travel to an area where our impact would last for the community we would be working for. Rather than coming in for a brief period and abruptly leaving, I hope that wherever my path in global health takes me, I implement practices, services and aid that can be a permanent resource in the community long after I leave.

In Malawi, our time was spent working alongside medical residents at the Adult Emergency Trauma Center and instilling practices that could be used to serve the local population better. By helping train the physicians on the ground in Malawi, we aim to ensure that this pattern continues to repeat itself and the education will continue to be passed down, ultimately growing their Emergency Medicine foundation base. Working in the only trauma center in Malawi, I gained valuable experience in understanding the care you can provide despite having few expendable resources at your fingertips.

What is one positive thing that surprised you about Malawian culture?

The generosity and warmth of the Malawi people and culture left me in awe. Each day I spent in Malawi, I learned more about their culture, which emphasizes caring for elders, supporting families and exuding kindness to everyone they encounter. Despite being a new face in a crowd of people, I was met with excitement and camaraderie. After long days at the hospital, we were invited to try traditional Malawian food, partake in local events and trek out of the city to experience all that Malawi had to offer. All of this was done while bonding with our medical colleagues.