I had researched various organizations before commencing my voyage to India. Though I do believe that travel can be spontaneous and unplanned, I think that when it comes to volunteering, proper research must be executed. There exists this "benevolent gratification" that many travelers are drawn to when it comes to going abroad and volunteering, however a lot of "aid" is not necessarily beneficial or productive. With that said, after much research, I picked two organizations to work with during my stay in India. One was with interest in alternative medicine (CHFI) and the other focused on modern medicine. I can say that with the comparison of the two, CFHI was undoubtedly the most engaging, dynamic, and nourishing organization that I've participated in. The locations were superb, as I got to work in the rural village of Patti, perfectly off the grid and secluded, which was therapeutic as much as it was mystifying and eye opening. Never did I think I would be in a tiny village at the foothills of the Himalayas, connecting with villagers like I did. We also had the pleasure of spending Diwali in Rishikesh, which was a natural paradise and truly one of my favorite places in the world. That area totally spoke to me as someone who is reflective and quite spiritual. Here we got to learn about natural healing with acupuncture, water therapy, mud therapy, and reflexology, as well as experience practicals from our instructors. It was magic. Finally we spent 2 weeks in Deradun where we got to live as medical students. This meant we took the bus to our rotations, which were actually quite encompassing (they took up the entire day) but in turn, extremely beneficial. I felt like I was getting what I asked for with medical volunteering. I learned about homeopathy, Ayurveda (with fabulous practicals), and speak with a 104 year old doctor for 2 weeks. It was such an amazing, moving opportunity. I really loved how thoughtful and easygoing our host family was, and our guide, Manyank was so elaborate with our entire experience. He took us to a wedding, taught us Hindi, helped us fabricate weekend plans, took us out to dinner, and had thanksgiving with us. I really miss him actually! I loved that yoga classes were included in the first 2 weeks of the program- it was the most immersion I've ever had in the practice. And honestly, with comparison to the other organization that I worked with, the material I learned through this program was invaluable. It was in depth, meaningful, impressive, and something that I share at any chance I get. The depth of the Ayurveda and homeopathy and alternative medicine that I learned was absolutely incredible. It truly means a lot to me, and has made me a more medically creative person. And the experiences I had during this program will always move me. India is in my bones now. I love this organization and what it does. I would 100% love to have the pleasure of working with CFHI again!
In April 2011, I participated in the four week program, entitled, “Doing More with Less, Healthcare in Remote Southern Bolivia,” specifically in the small and beautiful city of Tarija. The program exists through Child Family Health International, a leading nongovernmental organization which places health sciences students in global health education and community service programs in five different countries. Students participate in clinical rotations at general public health clinics throughout Tarija. The state of Tarija is unique in that it offers universal health insurance for all its inhabitants. In turn, this has created an enormous demand upon the health care system in the region which, sometimes, cannot be met because of the lack of health care personnel, monetary funds, and equipment. As students, we witnessed firsthand the difficulties many Bolivians have in accessing health care services in this region. In the recent decade or so, training opportunities for health care personnel in Bolivia have expanded dramatically with the founding of more private universities. The number of graduate level programs in medicine, nursing, and dentistry have doubled and there are larger numbers of providers available to serve the population. Within the past twenty years, the government of Bolivia has responded to the country’s dire health situation by passing several acts which allow local and regional governments to formulate social and economic development plans for health actions while funding would come from the national budget. In 1998, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare designed the Bolivian Health System as a universal access system based on primary care and embracing gender and intercultural approaches. In Bolivia, current priorities include providing basic health care to more women and children, expanding immunizations, and dealing with the problems of diarrhea and tuberculosis which are leading causes of death amongst children. For the first two weeks of the rotation, we primarily worked in Villa Avaroa, a center for general public health facility located within the immediate outskirts of Tarija. Many of the women and children hailed from nearby rural communities and underserved areas of Tarija. It was pretty evident that much of the patient population comprised of the lower socio-economic groups of Tarija. The second half of the rotation involved primarily working in the Hospital of San Lorenzo, which is a smaller town or “pueblo” located approximately thirty minutes from Tarija. This hospital also served the locally underserved area of San Lorenzo and surrounding communities. We worked in the general public health care system which is funded by the government of Bolivia. Resources are limited. There is a well-developed system of free vaccinations for infants and children, but families have to seek these services. In both of the facilities, free vaccinations were offered for women and children. A high emphasis was placed on nutrition and many prescriptions were offered to patients for nutritional supplements and vitamin supplements. Nutritionists and nurses explained the significance of these supplements and value of a balanced diet and nutrition to the patients and their families. We observed these sessions and assisted in administration of the prescriptions as well as in nutritional education. The lack of sanitation and hygiene were prevalent among patients and their families as was evident by their clothes and body odor. We saw several infants and children with advanced dental caries and infections due to lack of basic dental hygiene. Many patients came from impoverished backgrounds and living conditions. Transportation from the rural countryside to larger cities for health care can be an issue for many residents of the “el campo” (the countryside). Residents of nearby countryside communities often make several trips to health care facilities in a given year, but those in the further rural areas cannot make it. There are small health care teams that will make monthly trips to various rural communities for the rendering of basic health care services. We participated in two of these trips to different communities in the rural areas, and it was a very unique to have this experience and I definitely learned a lot. These rural communities are quite far by driving distance and the team of health care providers included the physician, a nurse, the driver, and the medical students. I remember one day in which we saw seven children from one family, ages 14 to 3. They all had pediculosis and were suffering from the common cold. They lived in huddled conditions in a small, two room house in the hills of the countryside with an outhouse for a bathroom and very limited access to any city resources. NGOs and the churches play a significant role in health care delivery. While in Tarija, we had the opportunity to attend a large public health fair with booths from various dimensions of the health care system. There were representatives from public health programs involved with the prevention of infectious diseases (such as Chagas disease, TB, rabies, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, etc), local schools, programs for the control of diabetes, herbal and traditional medicine groups, exercise and yoga groups, reproductive health and birth control education groups, programs for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, lactation groups, and many more. There were hundreds of people who attended the fair, from local students from colleges and high schools, health care professionals, military personnel, the general public, etc. The fair catered well to the needs of an entire community and was very well-organized with educational booths, demonstrations, posters, and speakers. I learned a lot and the well-designed and artistic, creative posters were very effective ways of communicating important points about the different health conditions and concerns that are prevalent in Southern Bolivian society. I also learned about the 24 hour “enfermeria” centers located sporadically in different parts of the cities, and these function as 24 hour “emergency rooms” staffed by nurses and provide basic services for immediate need ailments.
In Tarija and in other areas of Bolivia, much of specialty and sub-specialty medicine services rely upon the private sector, which cater mostly to the middle and upper classes. Larger numbers of lower socioeconomic groups seek specialty care in the secondary and tertiary level public health facilities. For this reason, there is an advantage to having a universal health care access system, one which provides basic services to all. The access, though, may not be as easy as access in the private sector. We also learned in depth about the different clinical pathologies that are prevalent in Southern Bolivia, such as Chagas disease, tuberculosis, and parasitosis. In the first two weeks of the program, there was a strong focus on Chagas disease, an infectious disease that is a major cause of death and disability in South America. We participated in prevention and epidemiological programs as well as clinical rotations where we observed the various manifestations and stages of Chagas infection. Bolivia, in the heart of South America, is home to the most indigenous population in the region and is the poorest country in South America. Proper nutrition is a huge problem in Bolivia and approximately a quarter of the country suffers from malnutrition. Statistics indicate that only about 20 percent of the rural populations have access to proper sanitation and safe drinking water. Bolivians living in rural areas lack proper sanitation and health services, rendering many helpless against potent diseases like malaria and Chagas disease. Major infectious diseases with high degrees of risk in the area include foodborne or waterborne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever; vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever; and water-contact diseases such as leptospirosis. While delivering health care in the rural areas, we also saw many patient cases of parasitic diseases such as giardiasis, ascariasis, and strongyloidiasis. I will have to admit that there are some challenges to working in a foreign country, including an initial lack of understanding how the health care system works. Along with the language barriers at times, there is also, sometimes, a sense of frustration because one wants to do more to directly help the patients and their families, but there are so many obstacles due to economic and social reasons. There is only so much the health care providers in the public sector can do for their patients, and this was evident from what the physicians told us too. They had limited resources in hand to directly aid the patients. Through conversing with the physicians and nurses, we learned that things are not easy for them as they get paid minimally and jobs are not widely abundant for health care providers. Some were also caught up in very busy days with a constant stream of patients and only so much in terms of the amounts of medications they could provide because even pharmaceutical supplies are limited within the public sector. All in all, I learned a lot about the conditions of health care for the vast majority of people in Bolivia. Many people cannot afford to render the services of private practitioners and have to seek health care in the general public health system. The good thing about the universal health care system is that all individuals are able to access at least some form of basic health care, which is better than no access at all. I also learned a lot about the many prevalent health conditions in the area ranging from mosquito-borne infectious diseases, parasitoses, rabies, and heart conditions to uterine cancers, chronic manifestations of different diseases, and hepatitis. Along with developing my Spanish language skills and learning many new words and phrases in Spanish, I learned a lot through my cultural immersion experience in Bolivia through experiencing the customs, traditions, and food of the country. Staying with a host family also enlightened my rich learning experience in Tarija. I was able to ask them a lot of questions, and I learned a lot through conversing with them and with others throughout my stay in Bolivia.
I participated in the CFHI Reproductive Health program in Quito, Ecuador for 4 weeks during the month of May. Ecuador is a developing country in South America endemic to many tropical diseases rarely seen in the United States including Yellow Fever, Malaria, and Dengue Fever. The hospitals and clinics in this unique setting provided a rare glimpse into a healthcare system completely different from those of Northern America.
During my time in Quito I had the opportunity to rotate in three different hospitals/clinics. My favorite hospital was Maternidad Isidro Ayora, a public hospital for pregnant women and their babies. It was both interesting and devastating to witness the number of teenage pregnancies in this hospital, some as young as 13. I had the opportunity to shadow physicians for a wide range of obstetrics and gynecology visits including pelvic exams, ultrasounds, vaginal and cesarian section births, and well baby exams.
The most interesting rotation was in a traditional medicine clinic for the indigenous population called Jambi Huasi. I was able to follow one of the medicine women at the clinic for a diagnostico mediante el cuy in which a guinea pig or cuy is used as a diagnostic tool. The entire therapy is performed in Quichua as the healer rubs a guinea pig on the patient and then guts it to examine its anatomy. This was the most unique clinic in which I rotated in Ecuador and I enjoyed learning about traditional alternative therapies.
In addition to clinical rotations and spanish lessons I had multiple opportunities to travel and see the local culture. My experiences on these trips range from zip-lining in the rain forest to attending a La Liga soccer match to snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. The CFHI local coordinator for my program was extremely helpful in arranging these trips.
This experience has reinforced my desire to travel and work in underserved communities in both the United States and internationally as a physician. I will never take for granted the abundant resources of North America after seeing doctors draw blood from patients without wearing gloves and labor and delivery rooms that are so overcrowded with patients that the families of the pregnant women are not allowed in to witness the birth of their children and grandchildren. This has truly been a life-altering experience for me. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in international health care.
CFHI was organized and well-run. My medical and local coordinators were there for all of my questions/concerns. Highly recommended
I spent 2 months in Ecuador, 2 weeks in Quito and 6 weeks in Puyo, working in clinics, educating communities about dengue fever, surveying for mosquitoes who carry both dengue and malaria, traveling to schools for hearing tests and vaccinations, and interacting with the small communities within the jungle. It was very educational, I gained a greater understanding of prevalent medical conditions within these communities and how the medical system works within Ecuador, and learned about alternative, medicinal treatments using local plants.
Overall this was an incredible experience and I learned a tremendous amount. My one disappointment was that I did not work more with the Malaria Services, since tropical medicine is my passion. If I were to do it again, I would prefer to have spent much more time learning about infectious disease and its impact on these communities, than working in general medicine.
What textbooks and the Internet teach us regarding international rural and urban medicine is no replacement for real-world experience. My participation in CFHI’s Ecuador Program in April 2011 has forever changed my perception of how a healthcare system is supposed to work and how invaluable the system is to the citizens of Ecuador. I also observed the disparities of the urban-rural healthcare compared to those of my home country, USA, and immediately saw the challenges that they faced.
I feel very privileged to be able to work alongside these hardworking medical professionals and I was able to walk away feeling like I gained a lot of knowledge, wisdom and great passion to help the community whether within my area or abroad. Although my time in Ecuador was short, in the end, I was brought back to why I wanted to become a doctor. It is not about the money, nor the prestige or even the fascination I have about the living system, it is what I saw everyday with the doctors I shadowed; spending time with them and understanding their concerns, pain and suffering. I watched as spending mere minutes with them seemed to ease their pain and suffering, all this without any drugs. It would seem that the medical world forgets the humanity aspect in our profession but after completing this program it brings back the reason why I want to become a doctor.
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I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to spend one month in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca with CFHI’s women’s reproductive health program. I knew I wanted to do an international rotation during my 4th year of medical school, but I didn’t have much time to plan one and wanted to make sure that whatever program I did was a well organized clinical experience with a reputable organization that is socially responsible and economically just, and I felt this program fit that description.
I had a lot of specific goals in mind when deciding to do this program in Oaxaca with CFHI. In 4 weeks, I feel I was able to meet all of my goals through this program. They included:
1) To broaden my knowledge about the Mexican public health system and the health-related strengths and challenges encountered in Oaxaca, especially pertaining to indigenous populations.
2) To gain clinical skills in women’s reproductive health, especially in rural and low-resource settings.
3) To increase my Spanish language proficiency in the clinical setting, with a particular emphasis on medical Spanish.
A typical day consisted of going to a “centro de salud”, a small community health clinic in a rural community near Puerto Escondido. Each week I would spend time in a different centro de salud with a different precepting doctpr. The clinics are very small, usually with about 2 exam rooms and a triage area with some boxes with files of medical records. Two doctors, 1 nurse and 1 clerical worker typical staff the clinics and they have a small pharmacy attached.
Everyday in clinic my precepting doctors and I saw a big variety of illnesses. The most common presentations involve pregnant women for prenatal care, reproductive health issues including STDs and especially HPV and cervical cancer; followed by the usual upper respiratory and pulmonary infections (including TB); gastroenteritis/diarrheal illnesses, chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia; injuries like lacerations and fractures. The precepting doctors were all very nice, and gave great feedback and supervision. It was such great practice to do so many histories and physical exams in Spanish. By my third week, I definitely felt that I could conduct a medical history in Spanish competently.
CFHI also set up wonderful supplemental private Spanish lessons that are tailored to review grammar, as well as focus on medical Spanish. In addition, a comfortable homestay was organized for me through CFHI, and worked out extremely well.
I am very grateful for the incredible learning experience I have had in Oaxaca, both in the clinical setting as well as in the daily life setting. Seeing first-hand how medicine is practiced here has given me valuable opportunities to reflect on my own clinical practice as well as my values in practicing medicine. Overall, I think the most valuable thing I am taking away from this month is a positive attitude and enthusiasm for meeting new people in a place as beautiful as Oaxaca.
I am a 4th year medical student who will soon be starting my residency in family practice. Through out medical school I always wanted to work internationally as I hope to continue to reach out to countries in need of medical care. Child Family Health International (CFHI) allowed me to have this opportunity. I traveled to Quito and Puyo Ecuador for one month in February. I participated in the Amazon Community and Indigenous Health program.
The part I liked most about this program was the variety. I worked in a private clinic in Quito, a missionary hospital in Shell, government run clinics in rural communities, participated in Dengue control and even visited a jungle community. Each experience was unique and left a lasting impression. All of the physicians and nurses were wonderful to work with. Everyone was interested in teaching about the Ecuadorian health system. They were also interested in learning about health care in the US. It was fun and interesting to explain how being a 4th year medical student works in the US and how this compares to medical education in Ecuador.
I not only learned a great deal about health care in Ecuador, but was also directly immersed in the culture. CFHI allows participants to live with host families. This is vital to any international experience. I was able to eat the local food, experience culture and tradition and practice my Spanish on a daily basis. Also, during my first week in Ecuador I attended daily Spanish classes. This was a great opportunity to practice and improve conversational skills as well as medical vocabulary. CFHI structures their programs in a way that allows for opportunities to learn and explore.
My experience with CFHI is one that I will never forget. I would highly recommended this organization and program to anyone who is interested in learning about another culture as well as experiencing medical care in a different country.
I spent one month in India doing the Urban/Rural Himalayan rotation through CFHI. It was an absolutely unbelievable experience that changed my life. I am a physician assistant student from Michigan, about to graduate and start my career. The month in India counted towards one of my clinical rotations, and was probably the one that I gained the most knowledge in. Not only did I learn about medicine and health care in an under served area of the world, but I learned about life and culture as well.
I was able to spend two weeks in DehraDun, India. Here I was able to really grasp the lifestyle of people in an urban setting. I worked in several different hospitals and clinics, and CFHI really was helpful in letting me get the most out of my experience as a future medical provider. I worked with such a variety of physicians, in a wide variety of settings. The ability to see the differences and similarities between India and the US was something that I really appreciated. Getting around in the city was a little overwhelming at first, but once we got the hang of taking the vikrams and rickshaws it was alot of fun. It only takes one time of getting completely lost to learn how to pay attention to where your stop is supposed to be. We stayed with a host family in Dehradun, which was amazing. Our family was so welcoming and friendly. They really made us feel like we were part of their family. Meals were prepared for us three times a day, which were all delicious and authentic. I really enjoyed my two weeks in the city.
We also got to spend two weeks in a rural setting in villages in the foothills of the himalayas. The scenery was some of the most beautiful that I've ever seen. The village of Patti was where we worked in a small clinic that was run by a doctor who practices ayurvedic medicine. Here we helped people in the local village, but also got to hike medicine to surrounding villages as well. That was my favorite part of my whole experience in India. It was nice to be able to help these people that usually would have to walk three hours or more on their own just to be seen for something as simple as heartburn or a skin infection. The hike was beautiful, and the whole experience was something that I will never be able to forget. Mussoorie was also a beautiful rural city that we worked in. We stayed at the missionary hospital and worked with several different doctors seeing patients in the clinic and also doing surgeries in the OR. The skills and knowledge I learned while working in those underserved, rural areas is something that will stick with me throughout my entire career as a physician assistant.
I couldn't have asked for a better experience than the one I had while in India. CFHI did an amazing job of organizing and accommodating my stay in India. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity and would recommend it to anyone interested in helping people and learning what health care is like in other countries.
In December 2010 I spent 4 weeks volunteering in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I went through Child Family Health International and participated in their women's reproductive health program. CFHI provided clinical visits, a home-stay, and medical Spanish lessons.
I spent each of the 4 weeks and a different clinical site. 3 of the 4 weeks were at public health clinics and 1 week was spent in labor and delivery at the local hospital. I was able to assist in 4 natural deliveries, observe 4 cesareans, and observe an appendectomy. In the clinics I found fetal heart rates, listened to patients hearts and lungs, removed sutures, and performed breast exams and pap smears. I was able to witness patient care in impoverished communities and understand the lack of medical resources in remote areas. To cope with poverty and sparse medical resources, preventative medicine, nutrition, and education were the main objective of community doctors. I was able to witness illnesses not commonly seen where I work in California such as leprosy, tuberculosis and dengue. The medical education I received in Puerto Escondido could not have been obtained without volunteering abroad.
The home-stay experience in Puerto Escondido was as important as my medical education. My home-stay family welcomed me into their family and helped me feel like part of the community. This provided me with compassion toward my patients in the clinic since I viewed them as members of my own community.
CFHI also provided Spanish lesson. The lesson focused on medical Spanish and I found that what I learned in class was useful in clinic. Also, my Spanish teacher discussed the healthcare system in Mexico with me and made sure I understood how the community accessed medical care. We also visited traditional mexican midwives in an effort to best understand community medical perspectives.
The 4 weeks I spent with CFHI were some of the most influential weeks of my life. I learned about global medicine, improved my Spanish, and gained a new family. I recommend this experience to anyone interested in medicine, cultures, and making great friends!
CFHI offers global health care programs in South Africa, India, South America, and Mexico. In the fall, I participated in their Health Care Challenges in Cape Town, South Africa. As a medical student, I worked for two months in secondary district hospitals: Victoria Hospital and G.F. Jooste Hospital. Pre-medical students had an additional option for a preceptorship at Eerste River Hospital. The program includes rotations with South African medical students and residents. It could either be specialty specific or exploratory.
I worked in the medicine department at Victoria and orthopedics in Jooste. My rotation in internal medicine was along side 4th and 6th-year University of Cape Town medical students. We rounded, discussed cases, worked-up patients, performed technical duties for residents, had classes, and bedside tutorials. Without MRIs, CTs, and U/S equipment for the department, doctors relied heavily on history and physical exams for diagnosis and treatment. There were a predominant number of patients with HIV/TB and young patients with terminal illnesses. At Jooste, I worked closely with residents admitting patients in clinic and assisting in theater. Most patients were involved in community violence, motor vehicle injuries, or complications associated with HIV/TB. The staff was engaging and accessible.
CFHI students boarded with a middle-class Coloured family in Vanguard Estate. They provided meals, sleeping quarters, and an initial introduction to the history of Cape Town. A driver transported students to and from the hospital. To explore the rest of South Africa, students have to rent their own vehicle or hire a taxicab. Public transportation is not advised due to security concerns. CFHI local directors have weekly meetings and can be reached at anytime for questions or concerns.
Cape Town is a tourist destination and accommodates vacationers with scenic views, historical bus rides, museums, beaches and nightlife. The CFHI directors will take paying students on a tour of the Eastern Cape and the Winelands if the group is four or more.
I highly recommend CFHI Health Care Challenges in Cape Town, South Africa for students and graduate health care providers. The program is an excellent medical education and cultural experience for students willing to study independently and engage respectfully with staff and the communities they serve. As much as I wanted to learn how medicine is practiced and have a "jol" in Cape Town, I was also an ambassador to my country and to my profession. I had a wonderful time exchanging clinical approaches and sharing American cultures with newfound colleagues and friends. I learned to be more resourceful, not only in the hospital, but also in finding avenues in building relationships with the people of South Africa that traverse national, cultural, racial, and economic boundaries. Doors opened for me. When I return, I know I will always have a place in Cape Town, South Africa.
My hope is that other parts of the world will see India as our team has seen it—a country of ancient and complex traditions, a richly diverse people embedded in art and culture, a place where creativity is rooted in hope and vision, and a nation where family and friends are the center of everything. This was made possible by CFHI.
My initial discovery of CFHI's global health programs surfaced in a conversation I had a few years back. A good friend of mine (who also happens to be an RN) had just received her nursing license. We were out for a celebratory dinner discussing the motivating factors that propelled her into the health field, the RN program specifically. Of the examples she named, CFHI's Reproductive Health program in Quito, Ecuador was one that she regarded as having a deeply important impact on her health perspective. Her month-long participation in that program helped solidify her passion to pursue and provide quality health care as an RN.
Years later I found myself with a window of time and opportunity to embark on the very same global health path she so highly and warmly regarded. In Fall 2010, I spent 2 full months (October and November) participating in CFHI's Reproductive/Women's Health Program in Quito, Ecuador. I chose this program in particular because of my long-term employment at a family planning clinic, and because of my passion for working with clients who are seeking knowledge, skills and empowerment to best protect their health. My medical career goal is to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, and since there wasn't a specific global health program with this focus, I chose the area of health I felt most familiar with: Reproductive Health.
Over the two months I spent participating in CFHI's global health program, I learned a wealth of information about health that extended beyond the Reproductive realm. Each week in Quito I was assigned to a specific preceptor in a specific health center providing services not limited to Women's Reproductive health; I'd spend one week making rounds on newborns/mothers in the Pediatrics ward, learning about post-natal care expectations; the next week I'd scrub in on surgeries in the military hospital. I certainly sat in on a fair number of OBGYN preceptors conducting women's health consultations, but it was what I learned during that unexpected time served working in areas of health I was unfamiliar with that left a huge impact on me.
I learned a lot about Ecuador's healthcare system by discussing health care access, education, socioeconomic class and ethnic background with my mentors and preceptors. These mentors include the CFHI's Quito Medical Director and local homestay coordinator with whom I spent a great deal of time interfacing with. Talking with them about what I saw and experienced in the health centers helped bring me clarity about their country's healthcare stratification; what % of the population uses insurance or private pays for services, what % needs and utilizes government assistance, SS, or free healthcare.
I learned about how religion, education and customary social/cultural schools of thought (i.e. machismo) weigh heavily on Ecuador's society, and individual minds; I saw how the cultural "way" dictated the population's attitude towards healthcare, especially in Women's Reproductive Health. Healthy sexual practices aren't discussed openly between parent-child or in schools, contraception isn't widely accepted or used for the sake of upholding religious belief systems and satisfying patriarchal demands.
Spending one week in Quito's public adolescent maternity hospital exemplified a country's level of education and a value system heavily entrenched in Catholocism. Each moment I spent with a newborn baby was a reminder of this, and I was truly fascinated by being on the other side of the coin---- my work at the family planning clinic primarily focused on prevention: pregnancy, STI, breast/cervical cancer; in Quito I spent the bulk of my time observing life circumstances that were past the prevention stage. It gave me the chance to examine culture in America, in the west (California), and within my immediate social circles (friends and family.) It also made me aware of my personal convictions re: healthcare. What aspects of health in Ecuador's culture really tested my notions of "acceptable, normal" and who was I to determine what was "right", "wrong" or an act of "miseducation." The moments that caused me to question belief systems in place within myself really stretched me beyond limits I never knew possible. and it is these reflections upon the state of health care in Quito that can broaden my understanding of client needs, beliefs and culture here in the states. It helped me better understand where the need IS and helps me narrow down where I want to focus my medical efforts once I am a practicing ultrasound care: the public sector for underserved, impoverished populations.
I left Quito, Ecuador realizing that I am in complete agreement with my friend with the RN license. My experience with CFHI left me energized, inspired and ready to complete the medical path I started; it made me aware of health conditions and beliefs surrounding healthcare that I will be sure to consider when serving future populations in my role as ultrasound technician. I want to best serve the client's needs, not my own.
Last year I decided to leave my job in finance to pursue my growing interest in global health. Because my education and work experience were in business and finance, and not in medicine or the sciences, I felt it was necessary for me to gain as much understanding of what it is like to be a global healthcare worker and to gain experience on the field. Through prior volunteer work with CFHI, I knew that its global healthcare programs would provide for the education and experience that I needed and wanted.
In September of this year, I participated in CFHI's Public Health & Community Medicine program, which is based in Delhi, India. The program provided an exceptional introduction to global health.
The program focused on the challenges of the delivery of health care to India’s underserved and marginalized communities. It involved visiting and learning about healthcare organizations that provide support services to a variety of populations located in and/or around urban and rural areas of Delhi. These organizations address key healthcare challenges facing India, including unsanitary living conditions, high HIV/AIDS infection rate, increase in the number of marginalized persons, and providing for the many visually-impaired persons. The program provided an opportunity to learn some of the most pressing healthcare issues faced by India and the initiatives in place to combat them. In addition, the program was instrumental in providing a set of tools that I can use as a future healthcare worker to address the many healthcare challenges of developing countries.
What made this program a success was how well it was coordinated. The CFHI staff responsible for the program provided great front and back-end support. The US coordinators were responsive to all of my inquiries regarding pre-departure information and what to expect, while the Delhi coordinators made sure that my curriculum included some areas of interest.
I am a Family Nurse Pracititioner student from the United States, and I spent 4 weeks in Puerto Escondido, Mexico doing a rotation in rural health and tropical diseases. I had a wonderful experience! CFHI took care of EVERYTHING! By organizing the homestay (which included meals!), language classes, health insurance, and an emergency cell phone, I honestly can't think of anything else they possibly could've done to help me out. It was so easy to go, learn, grow, and enjoy my time.
I am a second-year physician assistant student at the University of Iowa and participated in the Rural/Urban Himalayan rotation in India this past October. This experience allowed me to be immersed in a culture and healthcare system very different from my own back home. Between the colorful clothing, smells, food, transportation and language present in Northern India I really felt like I was in a different world. Despite these differences, I found myself drawing some similarities between culture and religious practices in India to that of western culture and religion. For example, many Christian religions use specific robes, colors, ashes, candles, and water to represent certain aspects of their religious beliefs. In India I found myself watching a Hindu ceremony with many of the same basic objects but only in different forms, colors, and languages.
There are also multiple kinds of medical practice that we don’t usually encounter here in the United States. For example, many Indian doctors practice ayurvedic medicine, which includes a specific set of beliefs and herbal medicines. Other Indian doctors practice more traditional allopathic western medicine, while still some practice both. Encountering this alternate set of beliefs about medicine has really made me aware of some beliefs Indian patients in the U.S. may come to clinic with.
In Indian healthcare, many disparities exist between the wealthy and the poor. Though there are some government run hospitals in the urban cities, many citizens still live with life-altering congenital defects that people in the U.S. usually get treated for simply because they don’t have the money to pay for the surgery or expensive therapy. In addition, many citizens that live in rural communities don’t get healthcare at all. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a rural community while I was in India. Trekking through the Himalayans to serve this underserved population has definitely strengthened my desire to continue to serve the underserved in my community and around the world. Overall, this was a very positive life altering experience that allowed me to see the world from another perspective and is something I will definitely take with me in my practice.
I participated in the Women's Reproductive Health program with Child Family Health International for six weeks in July and August in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The on-site staff was very supportive and available, and I learned so much about how the health care system functions in providing services and treatment. The impact that is program had on me is huge in influencing me to enter a dual degree program to get a Masters degree of Public Health along with and M.D. title. The program was unique by allowing me to interview eight midwives during my stay. This opportunity was insightful in seeing how birth takes place in the home with a traditional midwife with customs surrounding the experience.
My name is Carl Leonhardt and I am a pre-med student at Washington State, currently interviewing for Medical School. I attended the Rural / Urban Himalayan Rotation in India the summer after my senior year of undergrad. My medical rotation in India with Child Family Health International was a life changing experience . The first week of this program was spent in a rural village called Patti, nestled in foothills of the Himalayas. My group lived and worked in a small clinic which serves as the only form of health care for almost 10,000 rural farmers and mountain people in the surrounding hills, mountains, and villages. Everyday during that week, we saw many patients ranging from a newborn boy with a severe mango acid burn, a 16 year old girl suffering from Typhoid, to an 86 year-old woman with a cancerous tumor on her neck. These patients, along with the many more that we saw and treated free of charge, would have no way of receiving medical help if it was not for the clinic and a physician named Dr. Paul. Another week of rotation was spent in a capital city in Northern India called Dehradun. During that week I shadowed a cardiologist working at the Doon Government Hospital, which provides nearly free services. We conducted rounds with the cardiologist, Dr. Yoshi, in the morning and saw around 50 patients in the afternoon. Despite the fact that 15 to 20 people were constantly waiting to take a seat and see the doctor, he would always make sure each patient understood was he or she had prescribed and why. Most of these patients were either homeless, living in huts on small farms, or sleeping in tinny road-side shack that double as a store during the day.
The doctors you shadow in this program are dedicated, knowledgeable, empathetic individuals who love teaching medicine. I am glad I chose the Urban/Rural health program because you have the opportunity to explore and learn about two very different regions of Ecuador in terms of demographics, food, and culture. Chone (where the rural component took place) is unlike any other city you will ever visit, and the host family there is absolutely welcomes you with open arms. This program is excellent for those wondering how medicine differs in developing countries and for those interested in indigenous medicine.
CFHI’s motto is “let the world change you.” And it did. I was in South Africa for four weeks, doing a rotation on HIV/AIDS. It’s hard to describe just how much of an impact this experience had on me. I had the chance to learn about healthcare policy and participate in the care of patients in a very different part of the world. I saw endless cases of AIDS, TB, and Marasmus; preventative medicine was virtually nonexistent. I lived with a South African family, where I got a glimpse into their daily life. I met individuals who would become my role models. I learned about real medicine and what it means to be a doctor; it involves so much more than the physical manifestations of diseases. It involves an understanding of our patients’ communities, their traditions and cultures, the battles they encounter every day. It means doing everything we can for them: treating them, fighting for them, and believing in them. I know that I will be a better doctor because of CFHI and my month in SA.
I thoroughly enjoyed the both the Public Health program and the Communicable Diseases program and it was especially interesting to make comparisons between Delhi and Mumbai. In terms of daily routine, we would generally be out from about 9 – 4, but this varied from day to day – sometimes we would leave earlier and get back earlier. Each morning we would meet Sanjay, our local coordinator, and then get transport to the site, usually a rickshaw. Sometimes we would stay at one site for the whole day and have lunch there. Other days we would go to a different site in the afternoon and either have lunch out somewhere or come back to the apartment for lunch. After finishing the program each day we would either go back and relax at the apartment or do some sightseeing. In the evenings we would have dinner at the apartment and might go to the internet cafe, to a historical sight, to a market etc. We went to an extremely wide variety of sites, which was excellent. We spent time with a lot of different organisations working on many different issues and had placements at a variety of hospitals and clinics. Also on the program in Delhi we went on quite a few outreach visits with the organisations. These trips were very enjoyable as we were able to experience life in some villages and towns surrounding Delhi. In addition to the program, there was plenty of time for sightseeing in the evenings and weekend. The structure of the programs gave an excellent balance between spending time at sites and having time to do touristy things and visit other areas of India. Overall, I had a fantastic time and learnt a great deal about Indian life and culture, especially in relation to healthcare.
I have been a participant of CFHI and am now one of their program guideÃ‚Â´s in Oaxaca, Mexico. I am very impressed with all aspects of the organization as they are significantly improving the care of underserved communities in various manners, economically and healthcare to name a few. In addition to serving these communities, students are getting a great deal of clinical experience, learning the host language, broading their horizons by being in a foreign environment, and learning about different healthcare systems. All in all, CFHI provides a very enriching experience for its students and focusses on improving the quality of health care for communities that need it.