Travel Abroad- Vive Peru
This summer I was afforded the opportunity to embrace a new Latin American culture working in Peru as a clinical medicine volunteer, working alongside Peruvian medical staff in the local hospitals and clinics in some of the poorest regions of Peru. I was able to observe numerous surgeries, administer vaccinations, start IV’s, assist in childbirths, in addition to holding medical campaigns and diagnose patients. This experience also forced me to practice my medical Spanish with patients.
Our group organized educational sessions for elementary school students and a local medical campaign for poor local families who are unable to purchase health care. We gathered with local doctors at Jardin Angelitos de Jesus in Pacasmayo, Peru to prepare, and were quickly overwhelmed with the number of patients that arrived. My background as a certified EMT and studying Spanish in Costa Rica benefited me greatly as I interacted with patients. It made me realize that the lack of health care education was a much larger problem than I had expected. Expectant mothers did not have support with prenatal care; therefore, the rate of birth defects was very high. Poor public hygiene (such as proper trash disposal) has even resurrected diseases such as the bubonic plague. I went to Peru thinking lack of resources was the problem, and discovered that basic education about contracting parasites, malnutrition, and teeth brushing could drastically improve health care. The doctors are treating the diseases as they would arise, but the initial problem still exists.
Traveling to countries such as Peru and Costa Rica has significantly changed my views on education. Seeing first-hand the restriction of limited resources, I am even more passionate about giving back to underserved communities: with the consideration of volunteering time to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. With extreme differences in the healthcare systems of the U.S. and Peru, the effects education is huge. Even in America, science is constantly providing new information that we can incorporate into our lives. Cigarettes went from being “cool” to being deadly. Societal changes with long-term transformation have been the result of years of education. Teaching the population about these simple things in disadvantaged areas of the world such as Peru could mean the difference between life and death. My desire to make a larger impact is one of the main reasons I want to become a physician.