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Five minutes with... Dr Mary McCauley, Ethiopia

Dr. Mary McCauley is a speciality trainee in her fifth year of training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, working in Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Northern Ireland. In September, she will be embarking on the experience of a lifetime with VSO.

What made you decide to volunteer with VSO?

Having passed all my postgraduate exams and reached the fifth year of speciality training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, I decided it was time for a change of scenery. I have always intended to travel and work in a developing country and the Royal College for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and VSO Fellowship provided the ideal way to do this. I decided to go with VSO as this is a reputable international development charity that operates through the work of volunteers to bring about sustainable lasting change through training the local community. The ethos of sustainability attracted me to VSO.

Tell us a bit about your placement?

I have been placed in Yirgalem Medical College, based at Yirgalem General Hospital in Sidama, Southern Ethiopia. The hospital serves as a referral hospital for a catchment population of over three million people. The hospital performs around 1,500 deliveries and 2,000 general major operations per year. The hospital has two labour ward rooms and 20 obstetric and gynaecological beds. There are currently only two local obstetrician and gynaecologists serving the hospital.

In particular, Yirgalem General Hospital has experienced a critical shortage of health professionals to respond to the health service needs of the local population. My placement has been developed to build capacity by facilitating knowledge sharing and skills transfer, thereby potentially reducing both maternal and child mortality.

What will you miss the most?

They say that home is where the heart is and I know that I will miss my family and friends incredibly. I am the fifth eldest in a family of 14 children so there are always plenty of social events and family gatherings going on. Not having the option to call in to visit my parents, brothers and sisters and friends will be very difficult. However, I plan to keep in regular contact by email and Skype!

What are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to all the adventures that the next year will hold. I am of course excited and a little nervous at the prospect of moving from Derry City to rural South Ethiopia. I imagine that life will be amazing but not without its challenges, some of which may be extremely difficult. I plan to do my little bit well and hope to make some impact on the local hospital, however small. I do expect ups and downs but firmly believe the ups will definitely out with the down days!

What would you say to any health care professional looking to volunteer overseas?

I believe that volunteering with VSO will challenge and enable me to develop both personally and professionally. I will gain and enhance skills such as adaptability and flexibility, global awareness, self-assurance, problem-solving skills and resourcefulness. I believe I will return with an enhanced skill sets and increased cultural understanding.

I will also be equipped with invaluable professional experience, a wealth of memories and a whole new perspective on life, having gained new priorities and ambitions. I would encourage any health professional with even a small interest in working overseas to waste no more time and to apply to VSO to see what is on offer. You will not regret it!

Interested in following in Mary's footsteps?

Find out more about our work in health or check out our current volunteer vacancies now.

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