Guinean students come to the Faculty of Medicine at Université de Rennes 1 for a three month voluntary observational internship

After arriving at Université de Rennes 1 at the beginning of October, the Guinean students shared their first impressions and explained what led them to do an internship in Rennes

Guinean students in front of the International Affairs Department, UR1
  1. A long-standing partnership
  2. We asked the 5 students to tell us about the experience so far…

Abdoul Karim Camara, Safiatou Sow, Mohamed Cherif Traore, Adrien Fapeingou Tounkara and Saa Bobo Leno, five of the six students (the sixth, Aïcha Soumah, could not be with us for the meeting), who are in their 5th year of medicine at the Université Gamal Abdel Nasser de Conakry, came to the International Affairs Department to explain what led them to do a voluntary observational internship with the Faculty of Medicine at Université de Rennes 1. They were accompanied by Professor Sylvie Odent, Head of the Clinical Genetics Department at Rennes University Hospital and Carole Pegeault, International Affairs assistant at the Faculty of Medicine,

A long-standing partnership

As Carole Pegeault explained, the relationship between the Université de Rennes 1 and the Université Gamal Abdel Nasser de Conakry dates back to the 1980s when a renowned Pediatrian from Rennes, Professor Jean Sénécal, developed cooperation between Rennes and Conakry in Public Health and Pediatrics. Lecturers from Université de Rennes 1 regularly went to teach in Conakry and lecturers from Conakry came to train at Université de Rennes 1 (work which was carried on by Dr. Edouard Le Gall until his recent retirement).

The six students will carry out their internship, which will last 3 months, at the hospital. Internships are a more recent development of this relationship between the two universities and provide both French and Guinean students with the opportunity to observe the work practices in each other’s country.

We asked the 5 students to tell us about the experience so far…

How did you hear about this opportunity? And what does the internship involve exactly?

We heard about the possibility of an internship from friends who had done it two years ago. We realised how valuable this kind of experience was. In Africa, there are exchanges between other parts of the continent, but it was interesting for us to go outside Africa and see how things work elsewhere.

We’re at the hospital with French students who are in their 4th or 5th year of medicine. We work in pairs and, like the French students, we have some courses linked to the internship, but it’s mainly a practical experience.

Have you noticed a big difference in work methods?

There are a lot of differences! At first, we were a little lost in the organisation of the department. We’d never heard of the platform, and by that I mean the management software, used for managing patient files.
At the hospital, our relationship with professors and interns is different too. It’s less formal than in Guinea, where the professors expect a lot of respect. Here, we are very much at ease and everyone is happy to answer our questions. There’s a real exchange. And also in terms of technology, we’re a little behind.

How do you imagine your future? Would you like to become specialists?

Yes, we would like to specialise!

At the moment, we’re doing our general training. After our 6th year of study, we’ll do a year of Clinical Synthesis and then prepare a subject that we’ll have to defend. We’ll then be qualified general practioners (GPs). After that, in Guinea, you’re not immediately integrated into the civil service. First, you have to take an entrance exam. These take place roughly every four years. After that you can specialise, but, in that case, you have to find a place where you can specialise in your chosen field and that’s often outside Guinea, for example, in Morocco, Senegal, South Africa…. And you need money because it’s not financed by the state. This means that before specialising, you may work as an intern for 5 to 10 years before having enough money to pay for your studies, and often your salary doesn’t allow you to put money to one side. A lot of people give up because it’s too complicated and expensive. It’s very different to the system in France!

In Guinea, we don’t lack doctors! Out of a population of 12 million people, 700 000 students graduate from the three universities each year. What’s lacking is leadership. We need doctors in the public health field who can organise the hospitals. For that, we need to be in the field and see how hospitals work elsewhere.

Have you had the opportunity to meet the French students who were in Guinea last year?

Yes, we attended a presentation at the beginning of the year which was made by the students who went to Guinea!

Photographs taken by Université de Rennes 1 students on an internship in Guinea

Do you follow news about Europe in general and France in particular?

We learn a lot about France in our history and geography classes. People are often surprised how much we know about France and Europe! And yes, we follow recent events in the news.

What image do French students have of Guinea?

People don’t always know where Guinea is! And people ask if we have this or that in Guinea! Yes, we have! (Laughing.)