More with less

Cedar Grove High School graduate Jennifer Singh participated in the U.S. Army Africa Medical Readiness Training Exercise in Gabon.

Cedar Grove graduate making international impact


Staff Sgt. Jennifer Singh, a United States soldier and graduate of Cedar Grove High School, is getting a crash course on how to do more with less.

 Singh, who works in the operating room as a technician and is currently on a mission in Gabon, is experiencing Africa for the first time though the U.S. Army Africa Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETES).

 The mission provides a team of American medical professionals an opportunity to partner with Gabonese military medical personnel to share practices and improve the medical treatment processes.

 Singh, who has been in service for roughly 17 years, said the experience in Africa has been very rewarding. This is the first time Singh has been in direct support of a humanitarian mission, she said, and she’s making the best of it.

 “It’s been a great experience so far,” Singh said. “We’ve had a lot of interaction with the local Gabonese and they welcomed us with open arms. Coming to Africa was something I’ve never done before and [U.S. Army Africa] allowed me to experience this. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came over hoping to learn from them.”

 Singh said she’s learning quite a bit, including how to do more with less.

 During her time in Gabon, Singh said she assisted doctors with a neck surgery. In the United States, Singh said that type of surgery doctors would have more than 30 different instruments available. In Gabon, she had 13. Singh said despite the number of instruments available, the surgery was still a success.

 “I’ve learned to make due with less,” Singh said. “I’ve learned what’s important and what’s not. There’s a lot of instruments we have in [the United States] that you think would be necessary for surgery, but that’s not the case here. That’s not an issue for them. They perform the surgeries well and it’s not a problem.”

American, Gabonese medical professionals partner during MEDRETE 17-4

 Her time in Gabon has taught Singh how to be more innovative, she said. In the United States, Singh said during a gallbladder removal surgery they would use an instrument to hold the contents from the surgery. Here, Gaboneese doctors got creative by using what Singh called a “makeshift bag.”

 “The surgeon used a glove and cut into a makeshift bag…watching them do that helped me put my innovative cap on and in another surgery, I came up with a way to make my own,” Singh said.

 Each year the U.S. Army Africa facilitates five MEDRETES programs in various countries in Africa. In a statement, U.S. Army Africa said the hope that the missions are mutually beneficial and will allow “medical professionals from both militaries to share best practices, strengthen medical treatment processes, and promote partnerships. MEDRETE allows U.S. forces to train in an alternatively-resourced environment, share medical procedures, and build lasting relationships with Gabonese medical professionals.”

 Singh said she won’t just come home with a different medical prospective but a different perspective on life as well. During her time in Africa Singh said she noticed a difference in American and African culture.

 The philosophy of “more with less” trickles into the everyday life of Gabonese, she said. Singh said in America the culture is engulfed in entertainment like social media and smart phones, but in Africa children are more prone to sit outside and talk or play soccer than to play video games.

 “The kids are usually back there playing in a soccer tournament or outside talking. You’re not watching people look down at their phones,” Singh said. “The country itself is beautiful and the people are beautiful, but the houses are very simple. It’s an extreme level of simple living. They don’t have everything we have, but they make do. That’s why we came here. We came here to learn.”



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