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Medical student seeks public support

Bermudian medical student Aisha Basset had early exposure to the realities of living with cancer. Her beloved grandfather died from the disease when she was 11 years old.

That experience left a deep interest in her to work with cancer patients and she’s now been offered a chance to work in Belize, a country with one of the highest incidences of cancer in the world.

But she needs funding.

“I have been offered a place at The Belize Cancer Center, the only cancer centre in Belize. It is run under the guidance of oncologist, Dr Ellsworth Grant.

“I have also been offered a place at one of the regional hospitals in of Belize,” said Ms Bassett.

Now in her fourth year at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, she is at the point where she has to decide between an internship at a hospital or clinic.

“All students in medical school are given the responsibility to organise and fully fund a medical elective,’ said Ms Bassett. “I have chosen to go to Dangriga, Belize in Central America.”

She’s been offered a place there in June but will not be able to go unless she gets funding.

You may recall earlier this year Body & Soul reported how Margot Harvey came to Ms Bassett’s rescue with a scholarship that covered her tuition for this semester.

Now with her Belize internship at risk, Ms Bassett spoke with Body & Soul on why this placement is so important to her.


Why Belize? Is there specific expertise you feel you will gain there?

Of particular interest to me is the varied experience I will gain in oncology (the study of cancer) and internal medicine. Currently my medical school does not have a module in oncology so the learning has been scarce.

Because I have a strong interest in oncology and neurology, and have already had a placement in neurology, I feel that I will greatly benefit from a clinical placement in oncology.

I chose Belize because prevalence of cancer is very high there. It’s higher than Bermuda and the USA.

I have read that the prevalence of cancer is as high as 49 percent in Belize City and 21 percent in the region where I will be working.

This is high compared to Bermuda where, as of 2009, the overall age-adjusted incidence rate was 495 cases per 100,000 (. 49 percent) for blacks and 527 cases per 100,000 (. 52 percent) for Caucasians; an incidence rate comparable to USA.

Because of the high prevalence of cancer in Belize, and the fact there is only one cancer centre there which serves the entire population of 356,600, I believe that I will have the opportunity to gain more clinical exposure through interaction with a larger volume of patients than I would encounter in Bermuda.

Furthermore, I will gain the experience of viewing and managing late presentations of various cancers, specifically prostate and breast cancer, which I read is a problem in Belize.

I believe that gaining these varied experiences and exposure to many cases and presentations of cancers early on in my career will be of great benefit to me when treating cancer patients in Bermuda in the future.

I love my Bermudian people. In my interactions with Bermudian patients they have been kind-hearted and resilient.

Furthermore, it will also allow me to make a more informed choice about my career option in oncology and neurology due to the intense exposure I will receive.

Personally, I have found that I do have a special compassion for cancer patients and because of this I would like to take on this opportunity for international experience in a country where the cancer rate is very high.

2) Why do you feel you have to go this June?

The medical elective is an eight-week placement at a hospital in the country of your choice. At University of East Anglia this was set to be June 3 to July 26.

I have purchased a ticket and will be leaving Bermuda on June 1 and will return on July 28.

3) As you are short of funds wouldn’t it be better to come and work at King Edward VII Memorial for the summer?

I did consider this option but decided not to for the following reasons: Firstly, I have gained a great deal of experience at [KEMH].

I worked there as a summer intern for four summers and at Bermuda’s Department of Health for two summers. I also volunteered as a candy striper from age 13 to 17.

Working at KEMH granted me the privilege of working alongside hospitalists and gave me hands-on experience with the hospitalist team.

As a result, I feel I have gained a wide variety of skills and an insight into the major problems of our population and the major barriers to healthcare as well as useful hands-on experience.

I would like to go to Belize because I feel it would add diversity and variety to my medical experiences and allow an intensive exposure to oncology.

Furthermore, I have received $1,762.62 so far, which will cover the basic expenses of my vaccinations, aeroplane ticket, and travel insurance and student visa fee.

The remainder of finances I hope to get through sponsorship [would] cover my accommodation and food while in Belize. I am hopeful that I will be able to raise the remainder of the funds.

I have been encouraged to take on this opportunity to practice my skills and learn in a country other than Bermuda and I have taken this advice.

I hope that those who are able can support me and will see this opportunity for me as a worthwhile endeavour.

4) Why do you have to pay for this posting? Won’t you be working? Shouldn’t they be paying you?

Traditionally you are not paid for your medical elective as you are learning and being taught by physicians. Traditionally you must pay for your medical elective.

Thankfully, I do not have to pay for this internship. The costs I must pay are my living expenses.

Because you are taught by doctors, there are hospitals in America where you must pay tuition to the associated university for this opportunity.

At one hospital I looked into in Boston, the cost just for the elective internship in the USA works out to over $1,000 per week excluding living expenses thus it would total well over $10,000 including living expenses and accommodation so I quickly excluded this as an option.

Thankfully at the elective in Belize I do not have to pay for the teaching I will receive though I would like to take a donation to help the hospital continue to develop and buy needed equipment.

5) How much do you need to be able to go?

In total including airfare, lodging, food etc, I will need $6,528.03.

I have received a large donation from my church and church members and another sponsor totaling $1,762.62. This leaves a further $4,765.41 to be raised.

I am hoping to get full or partial sponsorship. Every donation will help and none is too small or too large to assist me in reaching my goal.

6) What’s your deadline to have this funding?

The deadline is Friday, May 3.

For more information about Ms Bassett’s medical elective or to sponsor her, e-mail aishabassett@gmail.com.

Bermudian medical student Aisha Bassett

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Published April 02, 2013 at 10:48 pm (Updated April 02, 2013 at 10:47 pm)

Medical student seeks public support

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