I remember the smell of empanadas and corn humitas. I remember the smiles on the faces of the patients I helped and interviewed during my medical internship at the Kinemed Clinic in Santiago, Chile. The calm breeze that grazed my skin and made my hairs stand up in the morning while I walked to school, the graffiti art that decorated the streets, the music and the trees. Studying abroad in Chile was by far the best experience I’ve had thus far.
Learning in college shouldn’t be limited to classrooms or lectures. A full college learning experience should be encompassed with intimate classrooms and lectures as well as different learning experiences in different locations around the World. Learning outside of a classroom allows you to develop a sense of self and serve as an asset to whatever goals you wish to accomplish in life. Study abroad plays an integral role in this experience. As a child, I always dreamt of becoming a doctor and traveling to different foreign countries all over the World to help people in need of health services.
After facilitating a college tour for former foster care youth, I had a discussion with one of my colleagues about language and science. While in Chile, along with participating in a medical internship, I also took a course in medical Spanish terminology. Although language and science may seem very distinct, one cannot exist without the other. Language serves as a medium in which science is communicated to the public. I realized that if I really wanted to pursue a career path in medicine, language shouldn’t be a barrier when communicating with patients or providers in related fields. Language plays a key role in our identities, our cultures and defines who we are and how we interact with others.
I learned that a person will be more inclined to trust a medical provider who attempts to remove those barriers and establish a connection beyond the regular patient/ physician interaction. It shows that the provider is willing to take the individual’s social and cultural lives into consideration in order to provide them with adequate care. A distrust in the medical system has only contributed to poor health outcomes for minority and underserved populations and in order to reverse these trends, we need social and culturally competent minorities in physician roles. My goals to become a physician are rooted in overcoming challenges in achieving health equity for all regardless of a person’s race, color, gender or creed.