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Overseas studies inspire Lao medical student’s dream to be a neurosurgeon

A short course at a top hospital in Cambodia has boosted the confidence and abilities of a Lao medical student of the University of Health Sciences who plans to become a neurosurgeon.
Alisa Sihalath, a sixth-year student in the university’s Faculty of Medicine, was one of several recipients of a scholarship from Japan’s A&H Fujimoto Foundation four years ago. She is currently assigned by the foundation to be a scholarship coordinator at the university.

Alisa dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon.

This summer the foundation supported her two-month visit to Jeremiah’s Hope Clinic in Cambodia to study neurology. This was her first visit to a foreign country.
“In my first week, I tried to adjust myself to my new environment. The Cambodians are similar to Lao people; they are friendly and nice. The food and language are different in Laos and Cambodia but I didn’t have a problem communicating with my Cambodian friends as we spoke in English,” said Alisa, who comes from Attapeu province.  
During her two months at the clinic she gained a lot of experience and encountered cases that were very different to what she had seen at hospitals in Laos.
“The doctors taught me several useful lessons through these cases. I started doing observation of patients and watching neurosurgeons at work in the operating theatre,” she said.
“I also worked alongside a team of American doctors led by Dr Rose Lemon and Dr Elmate. I observed them at work in several cases involving neurological problems. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of helping Dr Rose and Dr Elmate in the operating theatre. I was very excited to have this chance to work in that environment.”
She said she also learnt how to use various pieces of equipment and how to help doctors during surgery. The doctors taught her how to thoroughly examine patients who had neurological problems.
“All the lessons the doctors taught me are very useful and I will put them into practice in Laos,” she said.
Though there are no female neurosurgeons in Laos and the number of women surgeons is small, Alisa intends to excel in her field and work side by side with her male counterparts.
“I want to be a surgeon because performing operations is one of the most important things for a doctor. But doctors need to have a lot of patience and really like this work because surgery is risky. In a difficult case, an operation can take more than five hours,” she said.
Next year will be the final year of Alisa’s course and she is now focusing on surgery and gynaecology - subjects she enjoys very much.
Learning about neurosurgery during her two-month stint in Cambodia was a significant incentive for her to pursue this field.
“After helping to operate on several difficult cases in Cambodia, I was inspired to delve deeper into neurosurgery. It is difficult, but I need to study harder to help patients in my country. Many people have problems in Laos and I feel a lot of pity when I see these people,” Alisa said.
To fulfill her dream, Alisa will have to study abroad as Laos doesn’t have a university that offers a course in neurosurgery.


By Phon Thikeo
(Latest Update November 29, 2017)


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