Matthew Ta

McMaster University

Kenya Medical Elective

Hey everyone! My name is Matt – and I’m a medical student from Canada. I was super fortunate to be able to do an elective with the Elective International.


I went to Mombasa in Kenya and did my placement at the Coast General Provincial Hospital. I participated in several medical disciplines, such as internal medicine, emergency medicine, and surgery.
Day to day, I helped out in taking histories and physical exams for patients entering the ER, rounded on inpatients in the general medicine wards, and assisted in surgeries for minor procedures. I also helped out with day clinics to provide free checkups for hundreds of orphans and children living in slum areas.


Doing medicine there was a fascinating experience. It shared similarities with doing medicine at home, but was also vastly different from back at home. For example:


1. Resources were often very limited
- I learned to take appreciation for the very simple things such as water, hand sanitizers, face masks, and gloves that often weren’t available.

2. Smartphones and computers weren’t ubiquitous the same way they are back at home – you had to rely more on memory more than ever instead of relying on being able to look things up.

3. Some doctors were so talented and intelligent: they were up to date with the latest international guidelines for the management of conditions, but also had to improvise and work around the resource barriers they faced day-to-day

4. Patients were so grateful for any care and advice you and the hospital staff give them – this is often in contrast with medicine back at home where patients often feel entitled to their healthcare.

5. The shocking amount of good handwriting by doctors. Blew my mind. Normally, doctors’ writing is illegible back at home.

6. Lastly and most importantly, this experience reminded me why I wanted to do medicine in the first place – simply, to help people. In the western world, physicians can easily get bogged down with the unfulfilling, impersonal and mundane clerical and financial tasks (in other words, the business side of medicine). All this can really retract from the personal side of medicine. Here, it was you and the patient, and what you can do to help them. Here, it was very obvious that the patients really needed the help, and the ability to provide that was very gratifying.


I lived in student housing in a nice area in Mombasa, Kenya. Several other students were here and it was a blast. We had spacious rooms with mosquito nets, of course, a shared kitchen with a cook, a huge dining room, and even an in-ground pool.


In my spare time, I took some time off and did some fun stuff, like kite surfing, snorkeling, safaris, and after my elective, I went down to Tanzania and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.

Overall, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, defiantly recommend it to all