When Rosemin Kara received the phone call asking her if she would be interested in teaching cytology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi (AKUHN) she was, in her words, “surprised, excited and humbled to be offered such a fabulous TKN opportunity”.
Cytology is the medical and scientific study of cells and is a branch of pathology, the medical specialty that deals with making diagnoses of diseases and conditions through the examination of tissue samples from the body. Studying cells under a microscope can tell us if the cells are normal or a type of cancer. This may sound boring to many people but, for Rosemin, it has been her passion for the past 30 years. She currently works as a Clinical Instructor for Alberta Health Services in Canada.
The residents in training at AKUHN encompass a diverse group of individuals from different regions in Kenya and from other countries including Somalia, Zambia and Uganda. This diversity is mirrored in all areas within pathology and also in other departments at the hospital. It was a culturally enriching experience for Rosemin to interact with these residents and gain an appreciation of the impact they will make when they return to practice in their home towns.
Rosemin served on two TKN assignments, first in 2015 and then again in 2017, both of which were for three month durations. She found that her actual teaching role was not that different from what she does in her full time job. However, a major difference was that these laboratories understandably did not have the latest advanced equipment which she is accustomed to in Canada. This required the use of more basic methods to prepare samples, but Rosemin was pleasantly surprised to find that the end results were often just as good to make a diagnosis and give patients an answer about their illness.
Although both assignments were demanding and required Rosemin to work long hours, she says she would not have changed anything because the work was incredibly fulfilling. The sense of accomplishment she experienced, when sharing her knowledge and answering questions during her teaching sessions, is indescribable. Positive feedback from the residents confirmed the value of her teaching sessions, which made her efforts really worthwhile.
Both assignments were also a valuable learning opportunity for Rosemin. She went with the staff to outreach clinics to collect samples from patients living in remote and distant areas. She participated in a breast clinic in Mombasa, where they saw almost 600 women over a two day period. All the services, tests and reports provided by the volunteer staff were at no cost to the patients at this clinic. These experiences gave Rosemin a greater appreciation for the wonderful Canadian health care system she often takes for granted.
Rosemin says that she feels very blessed that, “in a small way, I have been able to accomplish some of the things that Mawlana Hazar Imam wishes us to embrace: helping the marginalized, sharing knowledge, being that spark to empower others, building capacity, volunteer service within and outside the Jamat, and practicing the values and ethics of Islam. This opportunity has been a cherished gift for me”
Dr. Zahir Moloo, Chair and Medical Director, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, AKUHN says that “over the past few years, the AKUHN Laboratory has benefited from 16 site visits by TKN volunteers in different sections of the department of pathology. In addition to teaching our residents-in-training and our technologists, their greatest support has been in helping us to achieve the much coveted ISO15189 international standards for accreditation. Rosemin, particularly during her last visit, undertook an audit in the histology and cytology sections, identified gaps in the accreditation process, and helped us to close them. Rosemin’s exemplary TKN commitment and contribution, and that of other TKN volunteers, are immensely valued by AKUHN.”