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Information for Medical Students, Residents and Volunteer Physicians

Thank you for your interest in the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre and Selian Lutheran Hospital. We are delighted to have medical students,residents and volunteer physicians join our work. Except by special arrangement with Dr. Jacobson, we accept medical students only for periods of two months or longer and residents, for one month or longer. Should you decide to participate, we will offer you an experience in which you will be exposed to:

1) Tanzania and the Swahili language
2) clinical tropical medicine, clinical parasitology and AIDS
3) primary and specialty health care in a third world country
4) the rewards of medical missionary work

If this sounds like the kind of program which interests you, you can request more information or apply by emailing Dr. Stephen Swanson, Staff Pediatrician/Infectious Diseases and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. If you apply, please consider addressing the following points in your email:

1) why you desire to participate in our program
2) what you feel you can contribute to our work
3) share with us your own faith and how you think you would fit into a Christian medical setting
4) any experiences or studies that have helped prepare you for volunteering in Africa
5) a statement of approval of the ALMC rotation from your medical school
6) a resume
7) Your plan to read about Africa and study tropical medicine under the supervision a faculty member of your program prior to coming to Arusha
8) A photocopy of the first pages of your passport

Click here for our expectations of medical students.


ALMC and SLH are both 125 bed hospitals in and near the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha. The hospitals and the affiliated Arusha Town Clinic serve over 150,000 outpatients per year, perform over 100 surgical procedures per month, and do over 30 deliveries per month. Common medical and pediatric diagnoses are malaria, AIDS, TB, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, and amebiasis. There are community health and outreach programs and a preventive medicine component through the Lutheran Diocese's health team. A full spectrum of surgical services is offered including laparoscopic, abdominal and pelvic procedures. Please also check out the website of our sister hospital, Selian Lutheran Hospital: where you may elect to spend part of your rotation.

The medical student rotation consists of working on the wards with a team that includes Assistant Medical Officer students, interns, residents and an attending physician. Medical students may also do outpatient medicine in one of the hospitals' clinics and have opportunities in rural medicine at remote locations. Students may also choose to go to remote health care settings with the Flying Medical Services of the Catholic Church (click here to see slideshow).

Visa requirements: Currently all volunteers and visitors are required to obtain a tourist visa either at the airport on arrival or from a Tanzanian Embassy/Consulate prior to travel. Visa costs vary by country (from the US it is $100). Students are then required to have a volunteer permit which costs $300. You must bring your passport and the fee to ALMC on the first day of your rotation. Volunteer doctors staying longer than three months will need to obtain a medical license in Tanzania. This requires considerable documentation which will be shared with you prior to your planned volunteer period.

Your passport expiration date must be at least six months after your arrival even if you plan to stay just one or two months.

Concerning health, check the CDC website for current immunization recommendations; as of October 2015, there were no required immunizations (BUT if you plan to visit Zanzibar, yellow fever IS required). Hepatitis A and B immunizations are recommended. The current recommendations for malaria prophylaxis are daily doxycycline (less expensive) or daily Malarone. Weekly mefloquine is an option, but side effects can be troubling and there is moderate resistance to mefloquin in this area. Also consider bringing a course of post-exposure anti--retroviral medication in case of accidental exposure. Stray dogs are everywhere: so if you jog or ride a bike, consider rabies immunization.

Housing: ALMC provides housing for all volunteers. The type depends on your specific needs and length of stay. The cost for medical students and residents is $300/month. ALMC does not provide food, but all living facilities have kitchens and food prices are modest. There is internet access in the volunteer houses.

What to bring: You will need light clothes. For work at the hospital, casual clinic clothes are appropriate. A raincoat is needed in February-June and October-December. Otherwise, a sweater or fleece and light jacket will suffice. Volunteers may do a lot of walking, so good walking shoes are important. Some volunteers who have been here during the dry season recommend tan and khaki colored clothes because those colors do not show the dust. For the hospital a white coat, stethescope, pulse oximeter, pen light, hand sanitizer, reference materials for sharing, and otoscope/opthalmoscope are recommended. Plan to bring some reading material, a flashlight or headlamp, batteries, camera, etc and a sense of adventure. There is a lodge with a swimming pool nearby, and there may even be time for the beach, so bring a swim suit. A laptop and/or PDA with various medical programs can be useful.

The easiest way to exchange money and get the best exchange rate is to use a VISA or Mastercard cash or debit card of the type that has a PIN number (must be 4 digits). For safaris and other large purchases paying in US dollars is helpful. Dollar bills must be 2006 or newer, and larger denominations ($100 or $50) are preferred. Notify your credit card company that charges will be coming from Tanzania; otherwise charges from here are automatically blocked. Travellers' checks can be useful as an emergency reserve, but high exchange fees and poor exchange rates make them less useful as a primary source of cash.

Reading: The following is a suggested cultural-understanding reading list:

Achebe. Things Fall Apart
Fadiman. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Moorehead. The White Nile
Naipaul. A Bend in the River
Klobuchar. The Cross under the Acacia Tree

Language: The Rosetta Stone Swahili language software is good, but expensive. English is spoken by all ALMC staff and charting is in English. Local courses and private tutoring are available.

Click here to visit the website of our sister institution, Selian Lutheran Hospital.

For additional pre-arrival information, click here.

Click here for our expectations of medical students.

Contact: Dr. Stephen Swanson at swan0027@umn.edu

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