Acts of global service impact local culture

I learned that while the work I accomplish may seem to expire by the time I leave, my participation in the program is what helps make our service sustainable.

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Published: Wednesday, 20 Dec 2023 Author: Madalyn Grass

Madalyn listening to a man's lungs at local clinic in PeruI arrived in Peru with some apprehension about my purpose for attending a global medical program. I had previously visited Vietnam for a similar program. While it was an extremely impactful experience, my worry is that my presence in these foreign countries is more beneficial for me than for the people I have come to serve. Therefore, while working this week my goals were to better understand the culture and learn more about the history of the MSUCOM program.

I wanted to learn more about the people of Iquitos and better understand how their community and way of living impacts their health. My hope was to be able to broaden my understanding of the determinants of health in a way that could be applied to any community that I may be working with in the future.

By connecting with patients, translators, and guides, I was able to learn more about the way the people of Peru approach health. I learned from the Shaman that despite the difficulty in accessing care, the community utilizes every resource they have in order to minimize the health disparity they experience. An environmental health student shared with me how the industrialization of the rainforest has greatly impacted their access to the basic components of healthy living, like clean water. To accommodate, they must change their diets and other health habits that are easily available and more affordable. While I can’t change the reality of their situation, especially not in two weeks, I can use this knowledge to better direct the care I give and the focus of my future participation in service projects.

I also wanted to hear stories from faculty members about the history of the program and the impact they have seen from our service. I enjoyed hearing stories from Dr. Silva about his history with Peru specifically, and how he graduated through the program, starting as a medical student. I learned that while the work I accomplish may seem to expire by the time I leave, my participation in the program is what helps make our service sustainable. If it weren’t for the students and doctors that participate in these programs, there would be no program at all.

I left Peru feeling more confident in my decision to pursue more acts of global service. I have learned ways in which I can help that does not require me to always be in the place I am serving. Our goals for our patients abroad are usually hefty ones, we want to provide long term care and improve their quality of life, and this relationship can take several years. It is not my sole responsibility to attend every program every year. It is, however, my responsibility to work with my team and the members of the community in the present to keep our work impactful and promote the program’s longevity.

Name: Madalyn Grass
Status: Graduate
Major: Osteopathic Medicine
Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Program: Global Health: Peru - Clinical Immersion