Ever since I traveled to Vietnam for an international family medicine rotation during medical school, I knew I wanted global health to be a part of my future practice. In Hue, Vietnam, I experienced a small taste of what working in a global health setting entailed, yet I knew nothing about what it truly meant to work in another healthcare system. What was my goal? What did I hope to accomplish?
How would I make changes using the limited resources available to me without compromising the integrity of the system and having those changes be sustainable and effective? To be honest, I had been wholly unprepared for my experience in Vietnam. I knew I was changed for the better, but I could not comprehend, nor did I fully appreciate, the impact of that one month abroad.
It wasn't until I became a participant of the Global Health Track that I realized that I had been missing essential knowledge and skills to work effectively in Vietnam. Through workshops and lecture series, I have learned about different aspects of global health from educators who are equally passionate about global health. Less than a year ago, I traveled to Leon, Nicaragua for the first time to begin one of three trips that I would be taking over the course of residency.
As I write this, I am currently in Leon, Nicaragua for the second time. I am living with a host family and eating authentic Nicaraguan meals every day. Each morning I work at the "Puesto de Salud Santa Ana" (one of Nicaragua's many health care posts) and each afternoon I walk to Spanish class. Although I have walked the same streets at least 50 times, I always discover a new shop or detail that I had not noticed before. It amazes me that I can see the same thing every day, yet have each encounter be a novel experience.
Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge I have come across has been learning Spanish. A part of me was worried, was it possible to have meaningful encounters without knowing the exact words to say? As I have come to learn, a smile, a simple touch or a moment of silence goes a long way and can go beyond words. Despite their hardships, it is incredibly inspiring to see the quiet resilience that marks the daily lives of the Nicaraguan people.
I enjoy every aspect of my experience here, from the culture immersion to working within Nicaragua's health care system. I am learning to open myself to new perspectives, to know when to speak and when to listen, and to appreciate the small details but never forgetting to look at the bigger picture.