Young doctor looks forward to challenges of work in Tanzania

A Lerwick GP trainee is swapping the hills of Shetland for the mountains of Tanzania when she heads up a voluntary project to Morogoro.

Amy Hilditch will be a team leader and medic on the Raleigh International project in January – which is looking to boost water supplies, sanitation, hygiene and management of natural resources.

After three months in Tanzania she will then be travelling to Borneo to carry out similar work with young people.

Dr Hilditch, 28, is part of the rural-track GP programme and returned to Shetland in August to work at the Lerwick practice.

As part of her GP training she can take six months to further her experience and skills.

She opted to work with the charity after hearing from friends about its work.

“I had a few friends who had worked with Raleigh before and said it was a really positive experience and that they got a lot out of it,” she said.

“I had the opportunity to take six months as part of my GP training to go and do anything really that I wanted that would further my career.

“I thought this is interesting and a bit different and a chance to see how different communities live.”

Dr Hilditch believes the skills she has learned while living in Shetland will stand her in good stead.

She faced a tough application process, including a challenging selection weekend outside of London, wading through a swamp in her clothes to see if she was made of the right stuff.

She said: “The selection weekend involved going down to a Scout camp south of London and spending a weekend doing different team building exercises.

“The challenges went on until 3am and every time we thought we were going to bed they told us there was a new emergency that had come up.

“I think they were just testing our resilience of unknown circumstances and working even though we were quite tired.”

Temperatures in Morogoro will be much higher than sunny Lerwick and Dr Hilditch said her duties could vary from simple first aid to treating tropical diseases, animal bites and helping with medical evacuations.

She said: “Remote and rural GP training has given me a good insight into the difficulties that can be faced when trying to deal with medical emergencies when you don’t have all the medical facilities to hand.

“The idea of having to transfer patients to bigger hospitals is something that I’ve had to deal with.

“I think a lot of the things I’m going to learn with Raleigh around management, communication and working in remote locations will transfer over really well.”

Originally from Northern Ireland, Dr Hilditch admits she came to Shetland “by accident” though she’s grown very fond of the isles.

I was only supposed to stay for six months but I found the community spirit is so great and that the lifestyle is so interesting I wanted to stay – AMY HILDITCH

“I was only supposed to stay for six months but I found the community spirit is so great and that the lifestyle is so interesting I wanted to stay,” she said.

“I think working as a GP here is completely different in some respects to working on the mainland.
“You get to see and deal with an awful lot more and you can’t just refer everything to a bigger hospital.
“I think that suits me because you get a lot more job satisfaction.”

As part of the trip Dr Hilditch has been asked to fundraise about £3,000, and a concert is being held at Lerwick Boating Club from 1pm on 18th December, with a host of local musicians and friends playing on the day.

A keen outdoor swimmer, kayaker, skydiver and mountain biker, she has set herself a different challenge to help raise the cash.

For 30 days she has chosen to have a vegan diet, and is more than halfway through.

“I was trying to think of something to do as a fundraiser and I was struggling because most of the things people ask for sponsorship for I would do for fun, like swimming in the sea or jumping out of airplanes,” she said.

“I would feel bad asking for money for that, so I thought of something I’d definitely not be doing for fun and somebody suggested being vegan.

“It’s very challenging because I like my Shetland lamb so much.”

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