Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Summer elective In Africa

The RCSI/COSECSA Programme also offers RCSI students the opportunity to undertake summer electives in Africa through placements at COSECSA accredited hospitals. Fifteen placements are offered annually for senior cycle undergraduate students.

An information briefing on electives is typically held in October of each year. Interviews take place in February and successful candidates are notified by early March. Placements are six weeks in duration and usually run from end June to early August.

For more information on the application process, please contact Dr Ann Hopkins, Director of the International Electives Programme at

RCSI Student Elective Experience 2016 – Paraic Behan

"I undertook a clinical elective with three of my classmates at Tikur Anbessa/Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Our elective was six weeks in duration. I spent three weeks in the Department of Anaesthetics and three weeks in the Department of General Surgery. My classmates were placed in Emergency Medicine, General Medicine and Obstetrics/Gynaecology.

Tikur Anbessa is the largest hospital in Ethiopia with 800 beds and the only oncology centre in a country with a population of 91 million. It’s a fascinating centre which cares for an incredibly diverse mix of patients. We had the opportunity to learn about conditions unique to that part of the world. Patients often attended the hospital with very advanced disease which we found very challenging at times. The healthcare setting is very much resource limited but the spirit of the medical staff was inspirational. It’s an uplifting place when things go well but it’s also a place which brings you down to earth from time to time.

There was a large number of junior doctors at Tikur Anbessa and we were very impressed by their competence in the practical side of medicine. We learned a great deal from them. And the consultants occasionally offered teaching sessions on topics of interest to us. While on Anaesthetics, I spent a lot of time in ICU. While the technology was not as advanced as in Ireland, this allowed me the opportunity to take clinical measurements such as central venous pressure manually. This was really useful in understanding the physiological basis of interventions which are made in ICU.

At Tikur Anbessa, we learned to rely more heavily on our basic clinical acumen because expensive and complex diagnostic tests were either unavailable or the time taken for the result to return was too long. I found this aspect to be very helpful.


Beyond the hospital, we travelled extensively around Ethiopia. Words cannot begin to describe the incredible experience we had on our travels. We visited a rural hospital deep in the Oromia Valley in southern Ethiopia. We trekked the Simien Mountains also known as the 'Roof of Africa' in northern Ethiopia. We even fed wild hyenas in the perfectly preserved walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia.

The city of Addis Ababa is a challenging place. It’s a melting pot of peoples, creeds, cultures and traditions. It’s a busy, engaging and eclectic city often described as the rumbling heart of Ethiopia.

Overall, our experience was exceptional. We gained an insight into a medical system which, under the difficult circumstances in which it operates, provides an exemplary service to its patients. We had many learning opportunities and spent time in one of the most captivating, memorable and stunningly beautiful countries in the world."

All photograph credit - Padraic Behan