Students from the Netherlands spent six weeks working with PRESCRIP-TEC partners in Bangladesh. Their main aim was to conduct a cost analysis of the project and for this purpose they spent most of their time with FRIENDSHIP, a non-governmental organisation; and and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) in Dhaka. However, they were also able to gather further data and gain insight into the project’s screening and testing at grass-roots level during field visits to the Northern and Southern regions of Bangladesh. Their findings will make a valuable contribution to the project.
The work in Dhaka
Six medical students from the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) in the Netherlands embarked on a six-week journey to Bangladesh. The mission of Soluna Pioch, Elisa Zwoferink, Pien Schoorlemmer, Anke van Vliet, Olof Vermeulen and Job van den End , was to conduct a comprehensive cost analysis for the Prevention and Elimination Screening Innovation Project Toward Elimination of Cervical Cancer (PRESCRIP-TEC).
The students collaborated with PRESCRIP-TEC partners. They spent the first weeks at the FRIENDSHIP Head Office and the ICDDR,B office in Dhaka. For their field visit, the students split in two groups, one of the groups visited the Emirates Floating Hospital (EFH) in northern Bangladesh and the FRIENDSHIP Clinic Gaibandha. The other group visited Khulna Medical College Hospital, the FRIENDSHIP Hospital Shyamnagar and the Upazila health complex in the south.
During their time in Dhaka, the students could also engage in a conversation with Dr. Farhana at the Banghabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Medical University (BSMMU), facilitating a productive discussion on their findings.
After bidding farewell to Dhaka, the students embarked on their journey to the northern and southern regions of Bangladesh. Their objective was to gather in-field screening information and gain insight into rural healthcare.
Hospital and clinic visits in the north
During their visit, Anke van Vliet , Olof Vermeulen and Job van den End could see the referral hospital for PRESCRIP-TEC patients. Here they met with a gynaecologist at the colposcopy clinic, a radiotherapist, and a health coordinator responsible for the biopsies done on VIA-positive cases. The treatment pathway was discussed, and the students were given a tour of the hospital, witnessing the wards and patients awaiting treatment.
The following day, the students visited the VIA clinic in Kurigram, where they gained insight into the VIA screening process and collected essential data for micro-costing. They observed the procedure and witnessed the education provided by a FRIENDSHIP Community Medic (FCM) to raise awareness about cervical cancer among the women they serve.
To further their understanding of the project, the students visited a tertiary hospital to which patients with cervical cancer or high-grade CIN are referred. They had already witnessed part of the screening program at the VIA clinic but still needed to observe the newly introduced HPV screening. Furthermore, they visited a satellite clinic in Kurigram, where HPV swab collections were performed. During their visit, they learned about the swab collection process, attended an education session on nutrition for small children and their mothers, and also visited the pharmacy.
In the final days of their stay in the field, the students focused on gathering information about the costs of screening and treatment.
Hospital and clinic visits in the south
Soluna Pioch, Elisa Zwoferink and Pien Schoorlemmer, observed the VIA and colposcopy procedures at the Khulna Medical College Hospital in the southern region. After that, they visited the FRIENDSHIP Hospital Shyamnagar, where they could witness VIA and thermal ablation procedures on patients.
The following day, they went to visit a satellite clinic in the field and could meet some of the FCM’s and an HPV positive woman. They also visited a woman in another village who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. They could hear her story and ask her some questions.
Lastly, the students visited the Upazila health complex where they met with and gathered information from the residential manager and a nurse who performs the VIA procedure.
The student’s contribution
This six-week experience allowed the medical students to collaborate closely with the PRESCRIP-TEC partners in Bangladesh, contributing to the advancement of the project. Their diligent efforts and valuable findings will undoubtedly aid in the ongoing battle against cervical cancer, bringing hope for a brighter future in healthcare.