Today was the first day of the Intensive Beginner Spanish program. The first week are doing Spanish classes for 7hours a day. It’s a long time, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot already. We are basically doing a semester+ of Spanish in two weeks. During week two, we are spending days at a local school working in the classroom an doing basic physical exams. This school has 600 children of very low socio-economic status. Then we spend the last two weeks doing some shadowing in a local clinic.
After being in the Amazon for 4 days and then getting to Quito before the program started, I feel like I’ve had a decent opportunity to get acclimated to the climate and the area. There was another 4th year medical student that was coincidentally on the same Amazon tour. She was in school in NYC and we had the opportunity to talk about her experiences working there as well as our experiences participating in global health programs. We met travelers from Scotland, Ireland, Austria and Holland during our excursion and it’s interesting to hear about healthcare in their countries. In the US we spend so much, but the return on our investment is not as high as it needs to be.
I’ve been reminded this week of how difficult it is to get around in a place where you do not speak the primary language. There were times in clinic when I would become slightly frustrated with interpreters and with the general fact that communication was extremely difficult when patients that did not speak English. I have a better appreciation for the difficulty and the frustration these patients feel in their every day lives and with their medical care.
The spanish classes are not only to learn Spanish, but we also learn about Latin American culture and how to approach these populations in the healthcare setting. Family and religion are very influential factors in the lives of individuals in this region with seventy-five percent of the population being Catholic and many individuals living in multigenerational homes. My homestay household has several ages and relatives living under one roof.
I’m interested to see how the program is going to shape up. It’s off to a good start. I am looking forward to learn more about their healthcare access and equity. I’m also interested in seeing their clinical environments. I’ve heard that physicians particularly in the government hospitals can be quite harsh with some even refusing to treat certain patients based on their ethnic backgrounds. We have similar issues in America. Even less overt, implicit racism and micro-agressions create serious barriers to care for many in the US.