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2017 05 11
 
For five years, Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez worked in the Amazon as an infectious diseases expert. When he returned to his home in Lima, he reached out to MEDLIFE and has been working with the NGO ever since.  
  

Dr. Jose Luis’s commitment to medicine began with his family. When his siblings fell ill, his father always asked Dr. Jose Luis to care for them. This motivated him to study medicine, which eventually led to a passion for attending patients.    

  
 What inspired you to work in MEDLIFE's Mobile Clinics?  
  
There are only a few organizations that dedicate their time to help poor patients like MEDLIFE does. Also, it is an opportunity for doctors to meet other professionals, new people, and students that come here bringing new energy that refuels us every year. 
  
Where do you work when you are not attending patients in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
When i'm not working in MEDLIFE, I work in the San Juan de Dios Hospital. I've also been studying oncology for the past two years in order for it to become my specialization.
  
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What experience impacted you the most when working in Mobile Clinics? Any particular case or patient? 
 
I'm the oldest doctor at MEDLIFE: I have worked here for nine years and have had a lot of experiences. The ones that impacted me the most are probably the most painful. In one case, we detected breast cancer in a patient named Carmen Solano. We helped her and followed her treatment but unfortunately she passed away. Despite the sorrowful moment, her family was very thankful for us. We attended Carmen’s funeral and MEDLIFE nearly took over the procession.
 
One rewarding experience was the case of Mr. Pineda, who has diabetes. We got him a prosthetic leg. He wanted to work again as a taxi driver and it is wonderful to see him working now.  
  
What do you enjoy the most in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
I enjoy spending my time with students. They have a positive energy that renews us all. I like teaching them and sharing our Peruvian culture with them. I also like being an inspiration for those who have decided to study medicine.  
  
What would you tell to the future volunteers that will come to a Mobile Clinics?  
 

Students leave their country, they invest money in something new and give their time to people they don't know anything about. I believe it's important that volunteers, as well as MEDLIFE staff, understand the value that this holds for patients.

 

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January 26, 2017 4:30 pm

Intern Journal: Joe Comer

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Back in November, I passed my first MEDLIFE Chapter up (meaning a school I had been working with fulfilled all the requirements to be an official MEDLIFE Chapter). I had worked with a student who wanted to bring MEDLIFE to their own campus for the past two months. Through emails and phone calls, we were able to figure out how to get students on their campus involved in the MEDLIFE movement. I’m happy to have passed them on. I’m proud of their hard work and the dedication they’ve shown to MEDLIFE. As an Expansion Intern, this is exactly what I’ve been working towards here in Peru. And it’s gotten me thinking about my time in school with my own MEDLIFE Chapter.

My involvement with MEDLIFE started long before I ever stepped on a plane headed to Peru. As a college Freshman, I went to my first MEDLIFE Chapter meeting at the University of Georgia. I sat in the back with a few friends who originally invited me. Initially I was only looking for an opportunity to serve in my local community and at my college, to volunteer with my friends and other people looking to make a difference. During the meeting’s explanation of what MEDLIFE is and what the Chapter did, I realized that MEDLIFE was exactly the type of organization I had been looking for.

I was heavily involved with the UGA MEDLIFE Chapter from that point forward, serving on the Executive Board for three years. I helped spread the MEDLIFE Movement on our campus. I attended meetings where I learned more about Global Health issues. I fundraised with my chapter through concerts, 5Ks, and selling scarves. I volunteered countless hours in my community. I participated on a Mobile Clinic to Lima, Peru (not knowing that I would be returning). All along the way, my passion for serving those in need grew. MEDLIFE provided me the perfect outlet for this passion, as I was able to serve those in my local and global communities.

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MEDLIFE serves those who would often otherwise go unnoticed and ignored. We provide essential medical care through our Mobile Clinics and Patient Follow-Up programs. We work closely with communities to plan and produce development projects according to their needs. We work year round to ensure those living in these communities have better access to MEDs: Medicine, Education, and Development. But MEDLIFE couldn’t do all of that without MEDLIFE Chapters and Volunteers.

So I’m here to get people involved. I want MEDLIFE to be more than the organization that provides essential care. I want it to be a movement. I want volunteers to be able to do more than just volunteer abroad. I want them to be able to volunteer at home too. By working to establish new chapters, I’m hoping to bring the core values of MEDLIFE to college campuses and students around the world. I want others to discover the same passion for serving that I found.

December 6, 2016 9:33 am

Intern Journal: Kristine Zimmerman

Written by Kristine Zimmerman

The most important questions we ask are the ones that don’t have easy answers. They are the questions that call into mind our thoughts, ideas, and behaviors. They are the questions that beg for action and for more than passive opinions. The world asks us how we value the importance of a life. Are we willing to hold hand of a man that needs assistance up the stairs and kiss the cheek of a woman in need of a proper home? Are we willing to show the world that there are things we can do to improve the lives of many by not focusing simply on our own?

          Through MEDLIFE I have been given the opportunity to hear the stories of many patients. While on a patient follow up visit with a MEDLIFE nurse, Beatriz, I met Dionicio. He had a neurological disorder that inhibited his speech and mobility. In addition, he also suffered from diabetes and hypertension, which caused him more pain and inconvenience. He was still dependent on his mother. We visited him that day to ensure his identification and insurance paperwork was in order for him to be able to see a physician.

It was quite difficult to get up Dionicio’s house from the road. Because there were no stairs or even steady footholds, I felt like I could have fallen multiple times with just a misplaced step. This presented a minor inconvenience for me, but for Dionicio, it was exponentially more difficult. Imagine living in pain from a treatable disease, unable to get the treatment you need from your local healthcare system. The unavoidable pain increases as you walk, sit, stand, lay down, and you feel restricted from leaving your own house, deterred by the thought of subjecting yourself to more discomfort.

As Beatriz talked with Dionicio and his mother about his current condition, I saw how he winced in pain with each movement of his feet. I listened to his voice break as he spoke of the pain that plagued him with simple movements. Then, while Beatriz shuffled through his patient records, Dionicio began to cry.

To share in that kind of vulnerability with a patient, to comfort them, and to offer help when it seems like they are facing the worst, this is what MEDLIFE aims to do. The MEDLIFE mission is about more than providing health care for people who have limited access to it. MEDLIFE asks the hard questions, gets to real answers that empower people to ignite sustainable change and improve the wellbeing of all who are deprived of it. Being a part of the MEDLIFE movement has challenged me to truly listen to the stories of those living in poverty, and if I can, ask myself what I can do to help. I have stopped thinking; “what is the minimum effort I need to invest to be able to sleep at night,” and instead stay up all night thinking about what more I can do.

Two years ago I came to Lima with MEDLIFE as a volunteer and I experienced what it was like to pour all of my mental, physical, and emotional effort into a movement focused so intently helping people. I saw the results of this effort and then pursued further involvement in the organization as a year-long intern. Already, I can see the positive effect this investment has had on my perspectives, thoughts, and actions. I only hope that I can help MEDLIFE continue to expand, keep asking myself those hard questions, and work for real solutions. 

November 22, 2016 9:28 am

Intern Journal: Allie Krugman

Written by Allie Krugman

529 allieFor the fourth day in a row, I opened my graduate school application portal only to reread the question - What are your reasons for interest in public health? - and minimized my browser. Although I had chosen to apply for graduate programs in public health before arriving in Peru, I was still not entirely certain this area of study was for me.  For this, I am grateful to MEDLIFE: My experiences working with this organization thus far have reinforced the importance of the public health field and my desire to influence it.

“Falta uno!” (“One more left!”) Announced Beatriz, nearly as out of breath as I was. We had one last flight of stairs to climb until we reached the fourth floor of the Maria Auxiliadora Hospital in Villa Maria del Triunfo, a smaller district on the outskirts of Lima and the third-to-last stop on the city's green line metro.  We were scaling the hospital steps to check in with Maura, one of MEDLIFE's follow-up patients who was recovering from surgery after a mototaxi accident had mangled her right leg.

After some effort, Beatriz and I finally reached Maura's room, a small four-bed space of which she occupied one corner. We had bought her a large bottle of water to replace her empty one, which I placed on her bedside table.  As Beatriz began asking Maura how she was, I watched as light emanated from this woman. Maura inexplicably answered every follow-up question with a smile and a laugh, in spite of her bedridden condition. Beatriz and I joked along with her, as if we had come to visit an old friend. When the time came for Beatriz to take a photo of Maura to document the follow-up visit, she put an arm around me and pulled me in with her.

Beatriz explained to me that Peru's patients suffer from an overburdened, underfunded health care system, similarly to the situation we face in the United States.  A lack of physicians results in brief doctor's appointments and little explanation of a patient's diagnoses or treatment options.

Enter MEDLIFE's nurses: armed with a lot of knowledge and even more compassion, Beatriz, Carmen, Ruth, and Janet fill in the gaps left by the system, providing a vital service to disadvantaged patients. Maura had suffered more than most could ever imagine: following her tragic accident in 2011, she underwent a botched surgery, battled infection, and endured many years of painful recovery. She struggled to obtain insurance that would cover her multiple operations and maintain financial resources as a disabled, single mother unable to work. MEDLIFE was able to pay for the final operation she needed, relieving some of the burden that she faced. Our organization also built a staircase near her home in the rocky hills of Villa Maria to prevent further accidents while recovering. During our patient follow-up visit, I saw the world of difference that MEDLIFE and its nurses made; in spite of her suffering and the poor infrastructure in place to address it, Maura had a source of infallible support. The light within her had not dimmed - the nurses would never have allowed it.

In one of our staff trainings, MEDLIFE's founder Nick Ellis gave a word of advice to those interested in entering the field of public health following the internship: ‘when writing public health policy, write it with the poorest people in mind.' These are the stakeholders that will fall through the cracks; the people that will bear the worst of a faulty healthcare system and unsafe infrastructure. People like Maura, who brighten the day of all who have the chance to meet them, who deserve the utmost support while they wrestle with the multitude hardships associated with poverty. Maura deserves to live in a society in which not only health is prioritized, but access to healthcare as well. She deserves to have not only her physical health in mind, but her wellbeing, protected by healthcare workers such as Beatriz.  When I am hopefully writing and influencing healthcare policy one day, I will do so with Maura in mind.

 

November 15, 2016 2:54 pm

Intern Journal: Brittany Cook

Written by Brittany Cook

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The morning meeting came to an end when I learned about the four follow-up patients Beatriz was scheduled to see for the day. Beatriz is one of the four exceptional nurses that works for MEDLIFE in Lima and I was able to go with her to see how she completes the MEDLIFE mission in her daily work. We set out towards Maria Auxiliadora Hospital in San Juan de Miraflores to help the first patient during a doctor's appointment. As we walked through the metal entrance gate, an energetic young teen ran towards us and hugged Beatriz. It was Gaby (*name changed), a patient of another MEDLIFE nurse who had a dental abscess and an external fistula. Beatriz asked her how she was doing and, after a short chat, said goodbye to continue our journey to meet with our first patient of the day. 

We made our way through the long, white hallway, down the winding staircase, and back into the corner designated for surgical and specialty consultations. The waiting space was buzzing with activity. Every seat was filled and the walkways were like the streets of Lima during rush hour. We took two laps through the waiting area but we could not find the first patient. As if she read our minds, Gaby and her family popped up behind us and Beatriz solicited her help in finding our elusive patient. With only a description of the patient, Gaby returned within five minutes with a location! While she was away, her mother expressed concern to Beatriz that Gaby would not get a much needed consultation because she had misplaced her DNI (National Identity Document-similar to a social security card in the United States).

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After Beatriz had worked with the first patient to figure out the next step in her treatment, she set out to help Gaby. Gaby needs jaw surgery soon so it was imperative that she had a consultation within the week. Without the DNI, the hospital was unable to make the appointment for her but Beatriz found another way. She went to a doctor that she had previously worked with and asked if he had any availability. He had an opening for later that day but he first needed her patient history. Beatriz went to the registrar to obtain the history but she was unable to access it without Gaby's DNI. After zig zagging her way around the hospital and filling out various forms, Beatriz found a way to get Gaby a temporary hospital DNI that expired at the end of the day. She went back to the doctor who was then able to access Gaby's medical history and fill out the paperwork necessary to schedule the appointment, much to Gaby's mother's relief. Gaby had the consultation and is now scheduled for her operation next week!

As I watched this all unfold, I realized two things. First, our nurses are dedicated to their patients and the MEDLIFE mission:

Our mission is to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty, empowering them to live healthier lives. Our patients did not choose to be poor, but they have chosen to strive toward a better life; MEDLIFE stands beside them in this pursuit.

Beatriz already had a full schedule for the day but when a patient of another nurse came to her for help, she made the time to get her what she needed. Beatriz stood beside Gaby (when she was not busy running around the hospital) to get her the appointment that would enable Gaby to lead a healthier life.

The second thing I realized is that the MEDLIFE mission would be incredibly difficult to fulfill without the knowledge the nurses bring to the team. The medical system in Peru is difficult to maneuver which is why so many people are wary of seeking medical attention. The nurses are talented at getting our patients government aided health insurance, helping them work within the system during the treatment, and keeping the process moving when roadblocks arise. Without the nurses' abilities to work within the system to keep everything moving smoothly, many patients would not be able to get the care that they need.

The best part is, the nurses are motivated to do this work due to their own dedication and joy. Many of the patients live far away from our office in San Borja but there is no distance Beatriz and the other nurses are not willing to cover to bring the patients the aid they need to live healthier lives. Every day I come to work, I am surrounded by an incredibly selfless and dedicated group of people from different places and backgrounds. We have Beatriz, our nurse from Lima; Renato who lived in Honduras most of his life and studies International Business while working in Administration; Sarah from Britain who studies foreign language and European studies and works in communications; and me and my 10 fellow Volunteer Affairs interns who hail from eight different states in America and have varying educational backgrounds. Seeing first-hand the lengths Beatriz was willing to go to in order to help a patient was a great reminder of how fortunate I am to be a part of the MEDLIFE team during my internship.

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