Xela, Guatemala - Pop Wuj
2019 Senior Elective
My experience at Pop Wuj Clinic in Quetzaltenango (also called Xela) was phenomenal and one I would highly recommend. At Pop Wuj, I spent the mornings either in one of two specialty clinics, in lecture, or helping out with one of the projects run out of Pop Wuj. The specialty clinics included a women’s health day and a clinic run out of school for those interested in pediatrics. We also helped with the Stove Project – a project aimed at helping build covered stoves since the open fire stoves are the greatest contributor to respiratory disease in Xela.
In the afternoons, we had one-on-one Spanish lessons for four hours that focused mainly on conversational medical Spanish. The Spanish teachers made this a rich experience for me and tailored it to my interests. For instance, I expressed interest in learning more about midwifery during my time in Guatemala since midwives are an integral part of the birthing process in many countries in Latin America. My teacher took me to the midwifery clinic and introduced me to all the midwives. They gave me a full tour of the space and taught me about traditional practices in Guatemala.
I spent my month living with a wonderful host mom and her 9 cats. She was incredibly interesting to speak to every night and enhanced my Spanish speaking skills more than I could have imagined. Outside of clinic, we got the opportunity to explore this beautiful country! Xela is known for some amazing hikes, including the highest peak in Central America called Volcán Tajumulco. In addition, Lake Atitlán and Antigua are two beautiful cities within a few hours of Xela that are great weekend trips.
Overall, this experience really opened my eyes to what it is like to practice medicine in a low-resource setting and the cultural impacts of Western medicine on this population. My Spanish speaking skills were also dramatically improved and made me more prepared to gain stronger relationships with my Spanish-speaking patients in the future.
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