STEP Story: Shantha Chelliah

Georgetown University, 3rd Year Pediatrics Resident
Kisumu, November 2015

Shantha ChelliahI’m a 3rd year pediatrics resident from Georgetown University, and was fortunate enough to participate in the STEP Program through FACES in Kisumu, Kenya. This was a mixed rotation of research and clinical work. Prior to coming, I joined the Pamoja study, which investigates a social support intervention for adolescents living with HIV. While in Kisumu, I participated in the qualitative side of the project, which included interviews and focus groups. On the clinical side, I was able to focus on the adolescent clinic and the mother-baby clinic since I am training in pediatrics. In Lumumba, we participated in CME activities and learned about other ongoing FACES-associated studies. At Tuungane, the teaching was especially strong for pediatrics, and residents can participate in their voluntary male circumcision program. Tuungane Clinic has a smaller population base than Lumumba Clinic, which allowed for closer interaction with both clinicians and patients and allowed for a more hands-on clinical experience. If I had more time, I really would have liked to experience the hospital setting since we did have patients sent to Kisumu District Hospital.

Living in Kisumu was a great experience. On the weekends, we did short trips to the Impala Sanctuary, Hippo Point, and Kiboko Bay. Despite the fact that Kisumu is not a busier city like Nairobi or Mombasa, there is still a lot to do. I hung out with locals whom I met in our clinic who were from Kisumu, as well as other STEP participants. People here are friendly and open. I generally felt safe, and kept common sense precautions such as not walking alone at night. For eating, there are a few good restaurants that turn to lounges and have live music in the evenings. There are also several vegetarian restaurants because of the substantial Indian community. We went to the produce market every few days and I enjoyed fresh mangoes and watermelon. My favorite new food is tree tomato (tamarillo) juice, which is freshly pressed at many restaurants.

I am glad that the STEP program gave me the opportunity to work with and learn from this community, and am looking forward to returning to Kisumu, Kenya again.