Belfast Telegraph

Out of Africa after work placement that was just what doctors ordered

By Joanne Sweeney

The journey to academic success took three Queen's University post-graduate students on a life-changing journey to Tanzania in Africa.

Dr Gillian Agnew from Newry, Dr Suzanne Crooks from Coleraine and Dr Lorraine Kennedy from Tipperary have graduated with PhDs in Clinical Psychology.

They shared an unforgettable experience when their year-long study took them to Tanzania's Muhimbili National Hospital on a work placement. Since completing their doctorates, all three graduates have already secured employment in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

The graduates took full advantage of the range of international work placements and study programmes available to Queen's students.

They worked in the hospital's psychiatry department from April to September this year under the supervision of Dr Margaret Hogan, a clinical psychologist for the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who has worked in Tanzania for decades.

Dr Agnew (27) said: "It's an experience that we will never forget.

"The placement facilitated by Queen's was a great success and provided us with an amazing experience of supporting people from completely different economic, cultural and religious backgrounds."

She explained that their experience gave them an opportunity to understand just how mental health conditions and treatment differ in other cultures. It was great to work with Dr Hogan and Dr Samuel Linkikoi and learn from them and their teams," said Dr Agnew.

"We worked with patients who believed that they were possessed with spirits and we saw people with a range of different issues from the mild end of anxiety to the more extreme end of schizophrenia and psychosis due to trauma and child abuse.

"Working in Northern Ireland is increasingly becoming multi-cultural, but sometimes our training in psychology and the medical profession is all very Western.

"So what it really allowed us to do was to observe psychology and human nature in a completely different setting and to understand just how important culture is in how we express our mental health and our wellbeing.

"Now I believe that I would have a much greater understanding in treating patients who come from a Muslim background or different culture than I did before," she added.

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