"I think that you have..."

This is a phrase I find myself saying to patients that I see in clinic. When I first found out I was going to Mercer On Mission, I was thrilled and so excited to be a part of the team. However, I would be lying if the thought of acting as the provider to these patients wasn't at least a little daunting to me. Now on the eve of our last day of clinic, I can say that though I definitely have a long way to go as a future physician, this trip has bolstered my skills and given me confidence in my diagnostic capabilities. 

These past few weeks in clinic have been an invaluable learning experience for me as a medical student. I have noticed my clinical skills improving with each day and my ability in reaching a diagnosis strengthened. I have seen some of the most interesting cases thus far in my medical experience and have even treated some ailments that I will likely never see again in my life. However , one of the greatest things I have learned from the Cambodian people outside of medical knowledge is how to listen to their story. This is something that Dr. Bina always reminds us to do before each clinic day and something I try to do with each patient that sits at my station. In hearing about their lives and experiences, it is striking the discrepancies between our culture and Cambodian culture. This is one of the poorest populations in the world, and with some of the population having experienced the Khmer Rouge, it's hard not to imagine the toll that such events can take on a person's mental and physical health. 

One thing I have noticed especially in many of my patients is how happy they are to see us. Even if we cannot treat what is wrong with them and they walk away with only ibuprofen, they always are thankful for the care that we have provided them. Today in clinic, I had a patient that came in with a very common complaint we see - back pain. When she sat down, she was smiling ear to ear and scooted in closer to us so she could reach out and grasp our hands while greeting us. In going through the history and physical, she remained just as cheerful and cooperative. At the conclusion of the visit, she said thank you over and over to us and then pulled both myself and Brielle, one of our undergraduate students, in for a hug. It was a special moment and one that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. For that, I say orkun (Khmer for thank you) to my special patient as well as the people of Cambodia for being the most gracious patients these past few weeks and for providing me with what has been a life-changing experience. Hopefully the learning I have gained on this trip will grant me the ability to make the leap from "I think you have" to just "you have."

Lisa King, Medical Student

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