It’s officially been two months in Amman and now it’s time to say my goodbyes
I’m going to be cliche for two seconds: looking back, my internship experience was nothing of what I expected, and yet everything I needed it to be. Okay, had to get that out of my system.
I officially finished up at UNRWA last Sunday (turned in my computer access and desk space, though managed to keep my badge as memorabilia). Two months ago, I had passed by that office several times in earnest when I thought my project was going to fall apart before it even began. You see, I had been talking to a doctor in UNRWA’s health department for a couple of months about working on a project to quantify the levels of diabetes and hypertension in the camps. However, instead of preparing at least a basis for my project ahead of time, the doctor thought it would just be best to put forth a verbal agreement and figure out what I could do when I got over here. Let’s just say that wasn’t the best idea. I arrived to find the head of the department telling the doctor (my adviser) that there was already an ongoing project on diabetes and hypertension…awesome. So what could I do? My family convinced me to show up to work despite not having a project (btw UNRWA work days start at 7:30 AM) and there were several days that I went home empty-handed and incredibly upset. However, it was their persistence that eventually pushed the doctor to link me up with the adviser and project I have (had?) now.
Working on the Health Reform project showed me an entirely different side of medicine—health care’s role in bettering an entire community, and not just an individual’s heath. Working at the health clinics proved the importance of focusing on primary health care and ensuring that the people served are informed participants. If there were anything I wish I could stay longer to work on it would be UNRWA’s health education initiatives. I can only imagine how strong their impact will be when patients are more aware of how to prevent certain illnesses and better manage non-communicable diseases.
Working at UNRWA on a whole has also made my views of the UN system more realistic—it’s an incredibly bureaucratic system and yet its services are incredibly essential to the population it serves. While the management structure of UNRWA surely doesn’t lend itself to a lean and efficient managing system, its actual managers stand as the most important factor to the efficiency and success of the organization. My adviser can make things happen regardless of the excess “red tape” and formalities that exist in the UNRWA system—good leaders can still make things happen. However, resistant leaders can make change incredibly difficult, especially those leaders that see any change as a criticism of their leadership. I think both types of leaders exist at UNRWA and at times they balance each other out. I think the biggest challenges UNRWA faces is opting for cosmetic change over real change, because it has to both satisfy donors and complete the job it was mandated to do. (http://www.friendsunrwa.org/about-unrwa/mandate)
Ultimately, my time at UNRWA has confirmed why I want to go into medicine. Beyond the scientific aspect of medicine, there’s an incredibly crucial social aspect. While I was interning at UNRWA, I realized that knowing how medicine works and how doctors view their patients and their services are important factors to supporting community health development. On the other hand, just understanding medicine doesn’t equate to the success of community health, one must understand how patients view their health and also have a strong understanding of health service administration. I’m not entirely sure how this translates career-wise, but I’m sure that my future path has been affected (positively) by my time at UNRWA.
Now, two more weeks in Amman and I’m heading back home :)