Future Focus: Gracie Hay

Notre Dame Sydney medical graduate, Gracie Hay, recently returned from her elective in Tanzania, Africa.

From vaccination clinics to delivering babies, working alongside doctors and medical staff from all over the world, Gracie’s eyes were opened to the challenges of providing access to healthcare in remote regions and resource deplete settings during her elective at the Haydom Lutheran Hospital.

Haydom Lutheran Hospital

I undertook my final medical elective in a remote part of Tanzania, 300km from Arusha at Haydom Lutheran Hospital, which provides access to healthcare for more than 900,000 people in its catchment area and facilitates multiple public health initiatives including remote paediatric vaccination clinics and educational seminars for pregnant women in the broader community. During my elective, I shadowed doctors and nurses in multiple departments including emergency, general medicine, maternity and remote outreach.

Animal attacks, obstetric emergencies, rheumatic heart disease and paediatric emergencies like meningitis were just some of the presentations that I was involved in managing during my time at Haydom. Because blood tests, imaging, and diagnostic aids like ECG machines are not always accessible or affordable, learning to gather information, establish diagnoses, and make clinical judgements rested far more heavily on a thorough history and examination than in western contexts. Working as a team with local doctors who were able to translate between Swahili and English in cases where language barriers arose and exchanging knowledge and perspectives was a gratifying experience that I will cherish for years to come.  

Healthcare further afield

As well as involvement in acute presentations in the hospital, I was lucky enough to be involved in public health outreach clinics which involved travelling by a tiny plane or Landcruiser to remote communities with local nurses to vaccinate children and assess their developmental milestones. Providing lifesaving preventative healthcare to children who live hours from the nearest hospital or clinic was an incredible experience and another demonstration of the amazing work being done at Haydom.

Back at the hospital, one particularly memorable experience was being called to assist in an emergency caesarean in the middle of the night for a woman who was 38 weeks pregnant. The woman had presented to hospital because the baby’s arm had been born first, which is an obstetric emergency and in this case, required urgent caesarean delivery. Thanks to the incredible team at Haydom, we had a healthy mother and baby at the end of the procedure. Exposure to these rare medical presentations, as well as learning alongside doctors and nurses from different cultures was invaluable.


Beyond the hospital, on the weekends, we were lucky enough to be taken by a local hospital guide to some of Tanzania’s amazing national parks where we were exposed to traditional Masai culture and saw African wildlife including giraffes, zebras and lions! We also climbed Mt. Hanang, Tanzania’s 4th highest mountain, camping above the clouds and hiking to the summit for a spectacular sunrise! Being so deeply immersed in a new culture and environment has opened my mind to the endless possibilities and paths that can be taken as part of a career in medicine.

The BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grant generously afforded me the ability to travel for this life changing experience. My time in Tanzania galvanised my passion for tropical and remote medicine and I look forward to returning in the future for a longer period to join the incredible team at Haydom Lutheran Hospital and further contribute to their community. 

Developed exclusively for medical and dental students, each year the BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grants provide students with the opportunity to undertake an elective so that their commitment to helping others can be realised. Applications for our FutureFocus grant will open in June 2023. 

You can also access funds to help undertake an overseas placement, with our Student Banking Package.


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