Leland Damron, '18

August 4, 2017
Senior's internship at a hospital in Tanzania underscores the importance of leadership in medicine

Early in University of Richmond senior Leland Damron’s Jepson Internship at Meru District Hospital in Tanzania, an unconscious girl was carried into the Female Ward. The girl was struggling to breathe and had to be resuscitated.

“I will never forget this experience, and how we were able to stabilize a patient without the use of any modern medicine or technology,” says Damron, ’18.

For Damron, a leadership studies major and mathematics minor on the pre-medicine track, this experience exemplifies the leadership lessons she is learning during her Jepson Internship.

“Doctors frequently have to make diagnoses without modern tests and technology. Furthermore, they have to create alternate treatment plans knowing that there is an extreme shortage of medications,” says Damron. “Before this internship, I never realized just how important creativity is to leadership, and I have been extremely impressed by the innovation I have seen so far at Meru District Hospital.”

Meru District Hospital is located in Arusha, an overflowing city of several tribes that lies along the Northern Circuit safari route and Mount Kilimanjaro. There, Damron works in the Female Ward and the Minor Operating Theater, assisting with pulling files, taking vitals, dressing wounds, casting, removing stitches, and addressing fractures and dislocations. All with very limited resources.

Damron says that she planned to intern at a hospital in a developing country for some time and conducted a substantial amount of research before deciding on Meru District Hospital.

Before leaving for her internship in Tanzania, Damron raised over $2,000 for the Meru District Hospital through a GoFundMe, email, and letter-writing campaign. She recalls giving the money to the hospital matron on her first day of work, saying, “She had no idea that the donation was coming and therefore was at a loss of words. I will never forget that moment; such a small amount of money here can make a huge difference.”

Working with limited technology has served as a reminder to Damron, who plans to pursue a career as a physician, that medicine requires more than clinical skills. Her internship underscored for her that the best doctors in all cultures have developed interpersonal relationship and communications skills, which is where she sees the need for her leadership studies education.

“The theories that I have studied in class as well as all of the experiences that I have had because of Jepson have helped me to both communicate and sympathize with patients,” says Damron. “I hope to combine my technical, scientific knowledge with everything that I have learned at Jepson to become an effective, well-rounded doctor.”