From Uganda, Christopher Odong has been studying for his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at the Southern Medical University (SMU) in Guangdong since 2015. Last year, Odong underwent an internship with doctors at SMU's Zhujiang Hospital, including Doctor Wu Xiping, an attending at the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
On the evening of January 24th, Chinese New Year's Eve, a traditional day for family reunion, Doctor Wu and another 132 medical workers from Guangdong left for Wuhan, the then epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, to provide support in the fight against the virus.
When Odong first heard that Doctor Wu has set off for Wuhan, he was both proud and worried. "Doctor Wu is a very good friend of mine. So when I got the news I was very worried, (thinking) what if he got infected?" Odong recalled. Odong is proud of what Doctor Wu has done and thinks he is a hero. "This is what we do as a doctor, to safeguard the health of the people. I would also go if I had the opportunity," Odong said.
Therefore, when the school was recruiting volunteers among the international student community to help in the treatment of foreign patients at Guangzhou 8th People's Hospital, one of the designated hospitals for treating COVID-19 cases, Odong did not hesitate before answering "I'm in." Over 60 students applied for the 14 spaces.
During his first two weeks volunteering, Odong attended training on how to communicate with patients. He also got the opportunity to visit the wards and departments at the hospital where COVID-19 patients are being treated in isolation, and talked to the director of the hospital.
At present the international student volunteers are having video chats with the patients to help solve mis-communication due to the language barrier if there is any and to calm them down with detailed explanation as to the reasons behind the treatment. Odong's first session was to talk to a Chinese student from New York, and a few days ago he video chatted with two Nigerian students.
As a foreign national and medical student, Odong can understand the patients' feelings and convey the doctors' points in a better way. "We talk to them to make them feel not so stressed and explain why they are being isolated and need to cooperate with the doctors on the treatment," Odong pointed out, and this has also helped the hospital to respond in a more targeted way to improve the situation.
Studying clinical medicine for five years has not only enabled Odong to do a good job in his volunteer service at the hospital, but also without doubt to fully understand the strict prevention and control measures that have been taken across the campus, and give him ,more profound insights into this pandemic.