Tropical diseases in New Zealand are almost non existent – I had seen 2 cases of malaria in Taranaki including a case of relapsing vivax ‘Molaria’ in my flatmate which all of us were sure was just a way for him to justify sleeping on the lounge floor with the heater turned up. I had tried to diagnose katyama fever (the seroconversion illness of schistosomiasis) in the deep south of NZ in Invercargill ED, which is about as far from the tropics as you can get.
Given that my experience was pretty much just what I had on elective and although we saw a lot, it was ad hoc learning without any true understanding of the pathology. I therefore opted to do a 3 month crash course on Tropical medicine. They aren’t a cheap undertaking but from everyone I had talked to, they were an awesome experience. Studying for 3 months to work in the tropics for 6 was slightly overkill but Infectious Diseases is a leading contender of future career options so I figured it wouldn’t be wasted.
The options of where to go for the diploma were varied. Bangkok. Peru. Antwerp. Townsville. Liverpool. London. And a few options in the states.
Doctors don’t seem to follow as strongly the trend of heading to the UK to work when compared to most other NZ uni graduates, as generally the wages are lower, the work conditions worse and the experience no better. British colleagues I had worked with in NZ had left in droves for ‘a year’ away that in many cases was turning into many years, houses and training program positions. I was still keen to live in London for a while and study seemed to be a good way to avoid sitting the PLAB exams and I still got to enjoy big city life for a few months and catch up with good mates who had been over there for in some cases several years.
After a convoluted application process I managed to nab a spot at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine along with Alice, a good friend from NZ whose boyfriend Tom Hills, I had travelled to Zambia with, as well as flatting with, previously. Despite my lack of knowledge about it, the school is one of the leading institutions worldwide and we were lucky to grad a spot.