As I was planning my 4th year in medical school, I really wanted to do an away elective. I had planned to visit South America, as that was one of the regions of the world that interested me and I had not yet explored. I reached out to Dr. Veldkamp, who then referred me to Dr. Puyana in Trauma Surgery. Dr. Puyana connected me with Dr. Salamea, an established surgeon and professor in Cuenca, Ecuador, who provided me with a project in Acute Care Surgery. After some back and forth emails and Skyping phone calls, I had a project and a ticket to Ecuador.
I was there for a total of three weeks. My weekday consisted of spending most of my time at the local public hospital, Hospital Vicente Corral Moscoso, either gathering data or shadowing the doctors. With my background in Spanish literature and culture, I was able to help out the residents with some of the tasks. Furthermore, I learned a ton of medical Spanish! The schedule was very flexible and I requested a few days to analyze the research data from home.
On weekends, I would go on trips to other parts of Ecuador on ridiculously affordable buses with the new friends I made there (I stayed with a local host who houses foreign medical students). I visited Chordeleg, Riobamba, Ambato, BaNos de Agua Santa etc. The nature was mostly untainted by men, which is rare these days! I went canyoning, hiking, dirt-biking, and had the chance to really indulge in the local food; didn't get sick, but I made sure to get all the vaccinations!
A highlight of my trip was when I had the change to visit the private medical school Dr. Salamea teaches at, where I participated in a suturing session--with plantains (how appropriate). If you don't know what a plantain is, it's sort of a bigger, less sweet, starchier banana, (pictured above).
All of this is thanks to the MAA funding my travel. I hope more students will apply for this funding and share their experience in the future. I am currently doing a preliminary year in general surgery, hoping to one day become a trauma or acute care surgeon.
Daiji is now in his residency program in preliminary surgery at NY Presbyterian/Queens New York.