25 January 2022

Danish medical students on clinical stay in Tanzania


Since 2018 Danish medical students from the University of Copenhagen have had the opportunity to take a clinical stay in Tanzania. This is thanks to many years of a fruitful collaboration between UCPH and partners in Tanzania.

View of Tanzania

In the autumn of 2021, when Corona had released the grip a bit, came the opportunity for Birgitte Gantriis to visit Bombo Region Hospital in Tanga, Tanzania. Birgitte coordinates the summer course International Health’ at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen. The summer course is a prerequisite for medical students from the University of Copenhagen if they want to take their clinical stay in Tanzania.

Birgitte met six Danish medical students at the hospital in Tanga, who were on the final stage of their eight-week stay as a part of completing their education.

”It was an incredible positive experience to meet Denise, Ida, Marveh, Rikke, Cecilie and Krestine during their clinical stay in Tanzania”, tells Birgitte Gantriis enthusiastically. “The six students were accustomed to walking around the 300-bed hospital, and they had a lot of experienced patient courses that could not be compared with what they can experience on a regular shift at a Danish hospital.

Birgitte is an educated nurse and has previously been on assignment for Danish Red Cross and the Danish Afghanistan Committee. She is currently employed as the Education Coordinator for Global Health at the Department of Public Health Sciences, UCPH

The Danish medical students gets another perspective to working in DK. Here Helene, Eline and Rikke are walking around Korogwe with Frank Mnango, who has been employed by Danish projects since 2002 in the Joint Malaria Programme (see box below).

International components in studying medicine

The summer course in International Health has existed since 1964. At that time, it was called “Summer school in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene”. Progressive people, like Professor of Social Medicine Erik Holst, initiated it, as he found that the medical school lacked an international component. But it took more than 50 years before Professor Thor G. Theander from the Center for Medical Parasitology (CMP) at ISIM, succeeded in offering medical students at the University of Copenhagen that they could choose training in working in developing countries as part of their education.

The summer course, which in all the years has been aimed at health graduates (doctors, medical students, midwives, nurses), is now included as part of the elective course “International Perspective” on  Master level in medicine.

In addition, the annual 40 seats are very popular. After Birgitte Gantriis has returned home from her autumn visit, Helene, Eline, Rikke, Anna, Tine, Emma, Line and William have just replaced the team that Birgitte had the pleasure of meeting.

“During the summer course, we try to prepare the students as good as possible for their stay in Tanzania,” says Birgitte and continues. “The hospital in Tanga is in many ways one of the more well-functioning in Tanzania, but the students also meet the harsh reality in a lower-middle-income country with few resources, tropical diseases and stages of diseases they have only read about. Fortunately, they work under supervision, where ideas are exchanged. It is very developing for all parties.”

Nanna trains the students in handling a birth on a doll at CAMES

Why a clinical stay in Tanzania?

Why is the clinical stay placed in Tanzania? It is so because the country is a Danida priority country, which means a country that Denmark has chosen to strengthen. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have for many years been involved in research projects and capacity building in Tanzania, including the extensive malaria research at CMP at ISIM , as well as research into metabolic diseases in Masai populations and maternal health.

Students from UCPH assist by e.g. a c-section 

Countless PhDs are trained in collaboration with researchers from e.g. the Department of Immunology and Microbiology and the Department of Public Health Sciences. Master in Global Health has since the start of the program in 2013 in collaboration with KCMC Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre had a five-week teaching component in Moshi, Tanzania, where students follow a teaching program and prepare a portfolio.

In other words: research, education and teaching take place in a close and long-term collaboration between the University of Copenhagen and partners in Tanzania for the benefit of all partners involved, as well as the local communities, which provides a global perspective on health and disease.

Center for Medical Parasitology (CMP)

The Center for Medical Parasitology (CMP) was established by the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Rigshospitalet and the Statens Serum Institut to strengthen malaria research in Denmark. The center is located on the 11th floor of the Maersk Tower and is administratively part of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology (ISIM) at the University of Copenhagen.

There are currently about 100 employees affiliated with the center. The research collaboration in Tanzania, which started in the early 1990s, is formalized in the “Joint Malaria Program”, which is a partnership between the National Institute for Medical Research (Tanzania), Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, the University of Copenhagen and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Through this partnership, a significant research infrastructure has been built in northeastern Tanzania, which includes research stations and laboratories at the hospitals in Korogwe and Tanga. It is this collaboration that has made it possible for UCPH to send 40 students annually on a clinical stay in Korogwe and Tanga.
Associate Professor Christain Wang from ISIM, is responsible for the clinical stay.

By Birgitte Gantriis

Editor Charlotte Malassé