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Career profiles

Justin Mui - Microbiology - Hospital work in Uganda

While volunteering at the Mulago Hospital in Uganda, UVic microbiology student Justin Mui assisted with major surgeries like caesarean sections. Being in the operating room was an eye-opening experience for the 21-year-old Victoria resident, who estimates he saw hundreds of women come through the labour unit of the hospital.

He only fainted once.

“I could feel it coming, my legs were all jiggly and I was getting sweaty,” said Mui. “It wasn’t the blood, or the physical sounds of surgery. It was the smell.” After he lost consciousness, Mui found himself propped up in a nearby corner. Though he was unsure if he could go on, the doctors still needed his help. “They give you 15 minutes in the corner, and then you’re back at it,” he said.

Justin knows that he would have never been given the same opportunities at a Canadian hospital, where he wouldn’t have even been allowed to step foot in the wards. But in Uganda, things were different. Justin’s experiences at the Mulago Hospital were part of his work term experience with the International Christian Medical Institute. Eager to put his microbiology knowledge into practice, he was excited to be given a variety of tasks.  “I really want to pursue medicine, so being given these opportunities was a great stepping stone,” he said.

Eventually, he became accustomed and de-sensitized to surgery, but he can still vividly remember many of the faces of the women he helped. “This one woman, my first patient, I remember her thanking me in her language. That was huge,” he said. In another instance, he helped save a baby that was dying, the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck.

In addition to volunteering in the hospital, Justin was also responsible for teaching a computer workshop to adults from the surrounding area. “Not many of these people had access to computers, so for a lot of them this was their first time even touching a computer. It was my job to instill a sense of confidence,” he said. Justin found it very rewarding to watch his students progress and learn.

While in Uganda, Justin stayed in a guesthouse and got to experience a totally alien culture. “I kind of became a vegetarian,” said Justin, noting that most meals consisted of little more than potatoes and rice. However, he believes being open to experiencing new things has helped him grow as a person. “I was there for 12 weeks, and I worked a lot. But what an amazing experience.”

Learn more about our co-op program or visit the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.

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