Mayan Medical Aid in Guatemala
"I went to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, on the Mayan Medical Aid mission. This was one of the abroad trips I heard about through Drexel. Second-year medical students had set up the information session and helped us apply.
"My experience in Guatemala was one of the best experiences I have had in medical school thus far for a number of reasons. First, I was able to experience treating patients from a completely different culture, educational background and philosophical approach to health from the very beginning of medical school. This was not a unique experience, in retrospect, as I have found that I have consistently utilized the tools I gained from my abroad experience in approaching patients from different backgrounds right here in the United States when it comes to dealing with their diagnosis, goals of care and family involvement.
"Second, I got a chance at hands-on medicine well before third year. I was learning my history taking and physical exam skills with real patient interactions. Not enough good can be said about learning a good physical exam and starting early. Working abroad provided an environment where students were treated as real health care providers and therein grew into the role of a true health care provider early on. I took ownership of my patients, so I was able to not only hone my physical exam skills and target my history taking questions but also start on assessment and plan for care of the patients. I presented these patients orally in Spanish to my attending physician, which undoubtedly made my oral presentations in English less daunting when third-year came around.
"In addition to this, I was able to take my Spanish skills from high school and college and apply them to the medical field, making me an asset on rounds with Spanish-speaking patients during my third and fourth year, and I am sure it will continue to benefit me to be functionally "trilingual" throughout the rest of my career.
"Outside of work, I had an amazing time exploring Guatemala. Our whole group got a chance to visit many of the famous sights around the area including Lake Atitlan (where we lived), Semuc Champey National Park, Antigua and more.
"My experience in Guatemala is what made me want to pursue further abroad experiences in the future, as a resident and as an attending physician. Now, one of my long-term dreams is to provide surgical care abroad, and eventually develop sustainable surgical training in areas of need, particularly in Central and South America. I wish I had another chance to go abroad during my medical school career."