Thursday, May 31, 2012


Each year since 1979, The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship has selected four third-year medical students to spend three months working as Fellows at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon on clinical rotations.  Medical Fellows work as junior physicians in pediatrics or medicine rotations, supervised by hospital medical staff.   Many Fellows have found their three months to be among the most valuable of their professional training, and several have reported that their lives and career plans have been changed in major ways by their experiences in Lambaréné.  Upon returning, Fellows join a network of more than 2,000 Lambaréné and U.S. Schweitzer Fellows – the Fellows for Life network – who are dedicated to maintaining service in their personal and professional lives.
                                                                                    -Courtesy of Albert Schweitzer Fellowship
My name is Tracy Cassagnol and I am a third year medical student at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. I am currently serving as a 2012 Albert Schweitzer Foundation Lambarene Fellow in Gabon, Central Africa.
     As a child I visited the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschappelles Haiti, and as a medical student served as a North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellow. I continue to be  inspired by the message of Dr. Schweitzer, his message of Reverence for Life and his legacy of service to those in underdeveloped nations. I am honored to have been given this opportunity, and it is with gratitude, faith and deep personal commitment that I embark on this opportunity. I invite you to share my journey through this blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Elephants, Buffalos and Beaches: A Weekend at Nyonie

      The savannah spread out before us, a sea of green interrupted by dense patches of forest. There were no houses, no sea, nothing to interrupt the savannah, and it spread clear across to the horizon.  I turned to my roommate and neither of us could speak, but I knew we were thinking the same thing: “We are so lucky to be here.”
      After six weeks of working in the hospital, we were both ready for a break. We could only do a short weekend trip, so we opted for a visit to Nyonie Wildlife Reserve. The savannah that left us speechless is the center of the park, which also has a beach and more denser forests. The park is located near the capital of Gabon, Libreville and is extremely well organized. Run by a small team, the park arranges every aspect of your visit, including the boat ride across the bay, a safari, a nature walk and all sleeping and eating arrangements. Basically, it was an easy way (and quick) way for us to get a chance to visit a national park.
     In order to go we arranged for a taxi ride from Lambarene to Libreville ($12 each way). Then we spent the night at a hotel in the capital.  I adore Lambarene. I love the river, the villages nearby and our small hospital community. But after six strait weeks, I was so happy to be near the beach and in the city. Our hotel had a small but very nice beach.

      We had a nice meal (first time I ate something other than fish in Gabon) and spent the night there. In the morning we took a taxi to the marina where we took a boat to the park.
     On the way, we came across a swarm of insects (which we assumed where flies).  However as we got closer, we realized it was in fact a swarm of butterflies in beautiful irridescent blues and yellows. We had arrived at the park precisely during butterfly season. As the butterflies surrounded us, everyone on our boat was silent. I assume they were silent for the same reason I was: it was mesmerizingly beautiful and the first of many such moments at Nyonie Wildlife Park. (I apologize for not taking pictures of the butterflies.. I was too stunned to even reach for my camera)
    During our stay, we spent time on the beach and on a safari through the savannah. It was an experience I will never forget. Here are some of my pictures from our trip: