International Studies & Programs

Exposure to medicine in Guatemala both thrilling and intimidating

I learned something new about medical care outside of the United States through every patient encounter and I could not help but feel thankful for the abundance of resources that we have back home when treating patients.

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Published: Monday, 20 Apr 2020 Author: Lina Erlingis

Lina standing in local street in GuatemalaTraveling to Guatemala this year was unlike any other program because I had the opportunity to work alongside doctors and residents to make a real difference in a community by offering free healthcare. My heart was warmed by the fact that the Guatemalans we spent time with and treated were so open to our presence. They welcomed us and made us feel at home in their small village in the mountains. I had many memorable conversations with patients about their families, hobbies, and aspirations. I experienced their culture by walking through street markets during lunch and learned about their daily lives in the afternoons during free moments.

I had no idea what to expect when I first walked into the clinic in Guatemala since this was my first medical program abroad, but after 4 days in clinic, I walked away with a whole new perspective. I learned something new about medical care outside of the United States through every patient encounter and I could not help but feel thankful for the abundance of resources that we have back home when treating patients. So many of the patients we saw did not have access to routine health care and were not taking any medications, nor were they educated on how they should be staying healthy. In the clinic, I was able to rotate through each station we had set up for the patients. I worked in general medicine, OBGYN, pediatrics, OMM, cardiology, ultrasound, and pharmacy, among others. Having had exposure to many different areas of medicine Group of med students in Guatemalawas both thrilling and intimidating. As a first-year student, it was great to see what I had to look forward to learning about in future years. I was also very inspired by the doctors and residents that gave a week of their time to come to Guatemala. I hope to be like them one day, striving to always give back to those that need it most, while also teaching and encouraging students like myself to take an interest in a specialty that may be foreign to them. 

Although there were ups and downs while working in the clinic, this experience abroad was one I will never forget. I gained a great amount of clinical experience and confidence in Guatemala. Some of my favorite moments included doing a full infant exam, giving fluoride treatments to children, and watching as mothers got their first look at their baby on ultrasound. In a developing country like Guatemala, it is so important for us to come together and use our skills to help as many as we can because everyone deserves proper health care. I am already looking forward to my next opportunity to travel back to Guatemala and take part in further improving healthcare abroad.

Name: Lina Erlingis
Status: 1st year medical student
Major: Osteopathic Medicine
Hometown: Milford, Michigan
Program: College of Osteopathic Medicine: Guatemala