April 3, 2013 10:43 am

Meet the Interns: Nandini

Written by Administrator

Nandini Razdan, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, joins us in Lima, Peru for an internship this month! Learn more about Nandini and how she got involved with MEDLIFE in the Q&A below: 

meetnandini1Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I graduated from the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!) in Spring 2012 with a degree in Biology and a minor degree in Spanish. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia in good 'ol Wilmington, Delaware. My passions include going out with friends, watching political and social documentaries, eating pizza every day and all day, and dancing. Dancing was a huge part of my collegiate life, as I danced on two different South Asian/Indian dance teams. I aspire to become a bilingual primary care physician working in underserved areas in the States, as well as hopefully becoming involved in global humanitarian work.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

In Winter 2011, I volunteered in a MEDLIFE mobile clinic in Cusco, Peru. I initially signed up for the clinic because I felt that humanitarian aid was something I wanted to become involved with as a future doctor, so I wanted to get a taste of what it actually required. My experience there was absolutely unforgettable. Being able to actually work hands on with patients in a way that you usually can't in the States was a treat, and being able to help intervene in the health of 751 patients in one week was a true gift.

Why did you decide to become an intern?

I applied to be an intern for MEDLIFE because I felt that as a clinic volunteer, I had only scratched the surface for the amount of impact I personally wanted to make on the poor communities and how much I wanted to learn about global health. What stood out to me the most as a clinic volunteer were the reasons that many of the health problems existed and how preventable they were. In Obstetrics, it was shocking to see case after case of pap smears potentially positive for cervical cancer. The high levels of cervical cancer in Latin America are partially attributed to the lack of women's health education, but also ignorance of consequences of promiscuity in relationships. While assisting the doctors, I saw that common gastrointestinal issues were a result of unclean drinking water. Additionally, many patients' painful headaches were often associated with poor dental hygiene. Preventative health education is currently being highlighted in the United States healthcare system, so I think it is important for pre-health professionals to become exposed to that aspect of healthcare. Two things that stood out to me about MEDLIFE were the health education presentations and materials that were handed out during the clinics, and also patient follow-up when the clinic was over. As an intern, I wanted to be involved in researching some of the relevant health problems and hopefully helping to present these to the communities. Also, I wanted to see what happens behind the scenes once the clinic weeks are over through patient-follow up.

What was your first impression of Lima?

Coming back to Lima was like falling in love with South America all over again after having previously travelled to Chile, and Lima and Cusco in Peru. I landed in Lima around midnight and woke up the next morning at 6 am on a summer day (escaping the winter in the USA) to the sound of chirping exotic birds and a fresh glass of juice, and pleasant weather. I was immediately immersed into helping with the clinic. The bus driver blasted salsa and reggaeton music during the commute to the clinic, which was even more effective than a morning coffee. The best thing about Peru in general is that the people here are extremely friendly. The friends that I had made before welcomed me back with open arms, and the new friends I have made both in MEDLIFE and otherwise have made my stay so far amazing.


Tell us an anecdote about your experience with MEDLIFE so far.

I've only been in Peru for a few days now, but every minute still has given me an opportunity to learn something new and to gain appreciation. The clinics in Lima are set up in the "pueblos jovenes," which are densely populated communities built on the outskirts of the city in the hills. Peruvians from rural areas migrate here to take advantage of the opportunities of the city. The final day of last week's clinic, the community whom MEDLIFE volunteers built a staircase for held a small party for us to show their appreciation. The volunteers played a game of soccer with the community on their hand built field which they had toiled for 5 years carving out of the dusty mountain. The community members were very hospitable, offering us snacks and drinks, even though they themselves had to work very hard to afford these things. This experience reminded me of how hard those within limited means work in order to be able to afford the things that we take for granted, yet they are the people with the most generous of hearts. The people were proud of their dusty mountainside soccer field with boulders for stadium seats and they were happy to offer the American volunteers humble snacks of Inka cola and soda crackers.

What do you look forward to about your internship?

I am looking forward to assisting doctors and nurses during patient follow-up because each medical case fascinates me and I appreciate that MEDLIFE takes the time to make sure that the patients get care outside of the clinic. Also, I am looking forward to being involved in preventative health education. Hopefully my experiences will help shape my medical journey to becoming a public-serving physician and hopefully MEDLIFE's audience will gain more perspective on the worldwide issues and be motivated to become involved.

January 7, 2013 11:37 am

Meet the Interns: Anna

Written by Lindsay Bigda

It's Anna's first day as an intern with the Student Affairs Team here in Lima, Peru! Over the next two months, Anna will be working to support MEDLIFE's field work, as well as helping to raise awareness about MEDLIFE's work across universities in Australia. Learn a bit about Anna here:

anna laming2Tell us a bit about yourself:

My Name is Anna and Im a student from Sydney, Australia! I'm doing a double degree in liberal arts and majoring in psychology, politics and geography. I'm set to finish studying in mid-2013. When I finish my studies, like many students, I'm not completely sure of what career path I'm going to take, but I am currently looking towards international development and poverty reduction, possibly in an international organization. I have always been interested in this arena, particularly because I feel that there is huge potential to make a great difference in the lives of many. Whenever I have the chance I Love to travel, hang out with friends, take photographs and -- as a typical Australian -- I love the beach!

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

I first discovered MEDLIFE through an email I received from the University of Sydney. It advertised internship positions with MEDLIFE where students would have the chance participate in the organization, helping both with their mobile medical clinics and with administration. After some further research about the organization, I was really interested in such a position particularly because of MEDLIFE's culturally sensitive approach to helping low-income communities in Latin America, but also because it mobilizes student groups and makes them aware of their ability to help communities in need.

What was your first impression of Lima?

Although I haven't been here long, I think my first impression of Lima was that it is a very busy, warm and exciting place to be. There aren't as many tourists as I expected and, although its daunting not speaking Spanish, I have found the locals pretty friendly.

What are you most looking forward to during your internship?

Firstly, I'm really looking forward to increasing my awareness of disadvantaged communities, and ways in which they can be helped. I think that was the main reason I chose to apply for the internship and become involved with MEDLIFE. Also, I think it's a really exciting opportunity to live in a foreign, non-English speaking country for two months -- I am hoping to learn some spanish while here! It may be difficult at times, but I think it's really important to step out of your comfort zone, and delve into the unfamiliar. I think immersing yourself in new experiences is the best way to learn.

Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

When I first arrived I was greeted at the airport by one of the MEDLIFE staff. Despite Spanish being her mother tongue, she was able to make me feel welcome and at home right away. This experience has been echoed with all the MEDLIFE staff members I have met. Everyone is so welcoming, thoughtful and willing to help out. I know I'm going to have a great time over the next couple of months.


November 9, 2012 1:27 pm

MEDLIFE Role Models: Meet Maria

Written by Rachel Hoffman

Maria-portraitMaria Chavez, 32, has worked for MEDLIFE Ecuador for five years. She treats her role as a Follow-Up Patient Coordinator like she is raising a child. She nurtures her connections, hones her patience, and holds hands wherever she goes.

When I sat down to speak with her about her involvement in the organization, she wore a a navy blue bomber jacket. A MEDLIFE logo patch is sewn onto the left-hand side by her collarbone. As she speaks, she holds her hands palm to palm as if praying. She is petite, a little over five feet tall, and rosy cheeked. A smattering of freckles trail down her tan, slender face and slightly downturned nose. She wears no makeup. Her nails are kept short. On a typical day, her shoes are well-worn chunky, black construction boots.

Maria found out about MEDLIFE in her own rural community, Cebadas, an hour outside of Riobamba. A woman who lived on the outskirts of town was suffering from a thyroid tumor, and when MEDLIFE arrived for a Mobile Clinic, Executive Director Nick Ellis was the first to treat her condition.

"I liked the help that this woman received from the foundation. Before [MEDLIFE] she didn't have any help...The foundation has a really human touch, and so I like the way they work," Maria explained.

In fact, she was impressed enough by the services to ask for a position herself.

Mara registrationAfter a patient attends a Mobile Clinic in Ecuador, and a doctor determines that further treatment is needed, Maria is the one that stands by his or her side. She attends doctor's appointments and accompanies patients before, during, and after procedures, in addition to answering follow-up questions throughout the entire process. Essentially, Maria plays the role of a family member that we all wish we had during stressful times -- brimming with knowledge and patience.

Growing up in Cebadas with three older brothers, Maria was raised on the peaceful rolling hills and small town lifestyle that dominates the indigenous rural communities of the Chimborazo region. But at only ten years old, tragedy struck. Her father passed away.

Maria sits with her arms crossed as if she is chilled. She suddenly begins to tear up at the memory, wetting her long, black eyelashes and wrinkling her wispy black eyebrows. She says that she does not like to remember the death.

After sniffling, Maria adds that "The support of my mother has been really important for me. Even though she was a widower, she knew how to cope and fight for her children."

Maria sites her mother as a driving inspirational force in her life to support others. Due to her mother's persistence, she was able to attend high school and college in Riobamba. Amidst her studies, she helped her mother farm the land and sell milk to make ends meet.

If anyone knows what patients who seek help from MEDLIFE Ecuador are going through, it's Maria. Living in an isolated community during rough periods, whether emotional or physical, can take a large toll. A majority of MEDLIFE Ecuador's patients hail from indigenous communities hours outside of Riobamba, with little access to hygiene facilities, basic health care, and education.

October 26, 2012 2:32 pm

Meet the Interns: Inge

Written by Administrator

Inge1Our first Peruvian intern has begun her week at the MEDLIFE offices in Lima.  Ingeborg Lopez-Torres, or Inge as she prefers to be called, is a recent graduate of the communications program at the Design Institute Toulouse Laurtrec and is looking forward to honing her craft while helping out those most in need. 

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in a beach town called Pimentel which is part of Chiclayo, a district in the North of Peru. The summers there were amazing; horseback riding in the afternoons and relaxing under the sun in the evenings.  Although it was a very quaint place to grow up, there was still poverty around us, and so my family participated in annual christmas drives and parties for the poor.  I also participated in the Rotary Club, donating food and clothes and providing medical attention.

Why did you decide to become an intern? 

I Iiked the idea of doing social work and helping out people that I would've never met otherwise. Working here has made me more sensitive to those in need and made me realize that there really are a lot of people in Lima who need our help. Working hard towards improving the lives of others is a gratifying feeling that is like no other.

How do you think the internship will help you with your future career goals?

This internship will help me grow as a person in many ways. I don't think it matters how successful or intelligent or wealthy you are; you will never feel fulfilled if you don't have a good heart. As long as I'm mindful of that, I'm sure that I will do well and be happy in any career I choose.


Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

The first time I went to the slums of Lima with Carlos Benavides, director of MEDLIFE Peru, I was humbled by the kindness and warmth we encountered amongst its residents. Before then, I had no concept of the amount of poverty that there is so close to where I live. The people we help receive us with open arms and so much generosity; it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

What do you hope to learn at MEDLIFE? 

I hope to really get to know the people we help, find out their stories, get involved with them and not just be helping out for the moment. Even if I am not working with MEDLIFE in the future, I would love to continue to be a part of those peoples' lives.

So far, I have enjoyed getting to know the MEDLIFE staff and am looking forward to working with the student volunteers.

October 23, 2012 5:07 pm

Meet the Interns: Rachel H.

Written by Administrator

Rachel is a recent graduate from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is barely five days into her media internship at MEDLIFE Ecuador in Riobamba. So far, the Jersey native has spent her time battling the dusty mountain tops of Guamote for photos of an upcoming school project, roaming the communities of the coast on a scouting mission, and identifying patient stories for compelling video footage. Now, let's get some background on our newest addition to MEDLIFE's communications team: 

MeetRachelH2Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in one of the many suburbs of New Jersey shore. From a young age, I always enjoyed bothering people with questions about their lives and scribbling it down. I am stubbornly and strictly interested in documenting the human condition, mainly for social justice purposes. Though I am a visual storyteller, I hardly take photographs when not on the job.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

I found MEDLIFE through a job posting the website, idealist.org. As a recent graduate of journalism school with a good dose of wanderlust, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to use my media skills for a good cause while learning about the health care concerns of an entirely different region of the world.

What was your first impression of Riobamba?

I arrived in Riobamba at 2 AM, so therefore my first impression was "dark." However, the next morning I was pleasantly surprised to see the thin outlines of mountains beyond the city's borders. I've never seen more places to grab a quick meal of roasted chicken. I quite like the winding streets. I find the howls of stray dogs in the evening less favorable.

What do you like most about being an intern?

I like the open-ended possibility. Right now, I am not quite sure of where we desire to direct our media efforts here in Ecuador since I am the first longer-term media intern, and am enjoying the brainstorming process. I also am enjoying the excuse to follow anyone around at any given time on important business.


Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

When we traveled to Esmeraldas, a small city on the coast, this past week, I met a girl while taking photographs of her community. She was thin and tall with a high pony tail of tightly curled black hair. She asked if I was taking photos, and I said yes. She told me she was 14 and lived in the house behind us. I attempted to chat with her in my broken spanish and she didn't seem to mind. She looked me straight in the eyes and didn't even seem to mind that I was pretty much the epitome of an outsider in her neighborhood. My first instinct was to take a photo of her, but it didn't feel right. I think it's important to see other people as just that -- people -- especially when you are outside of your element.

How do you think the internship will help you with your future plans / career?

I am hoping that this internship will provide me with more life experience in connecting with people entirely different than myself and continue to grow my media skills in foreign reporting.

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