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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:
Tell 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.
Last week, our two remaining presenters traveled hundreds of miles across the U.S. and Canada to spread word about our mission. Here are some quick updates and photos from their fifth week on the road:
Oct. 26, 2012:
Visiting McGill was a great experience; they have a truly amazing chapter with exceptionally dedicated students. Their strength is even more evident up close and personal. I had extremely constructive conversations with the Executive Board and brainstormed a bunch of new ideas for some of our new student initiatives. A big thanks to all the members of the McGill Executive Board and Expansion Team for taking the time to meet. I hope to be able to visit again soon!
Catch one of Juan's talks by checking out his stops on the Southeast region tour schedule page.
Oct. 26, 2012:
This week was full of a lot of flying, a lot of sightseeing, a lot of planning, and a lot of driving through cornfields; beautiful weather the whole time, luckily. I visited Purdue, U Missouri, Notre Dame and Washington U in St. Louis. Norte Dame's campus was impressively beautiful. Students at all of the schools showed a lot of interest and are excited about getting started with MEDLIFE and/or fundraising within their existing chapters.
See where else Sean is headed by checking on the Midwest tour schedule page.
This week kicks off our One Billion+ Campaign Tour across the United States and Canada! Read below for some quick journal entries on the road from our four presenters including Director of MEDLIFE, Nick Ellis, Co-Founder Juan Vanegas, and year-round interns Sean White and Biz Shenk:
Sept. 26, 2012:
"I Flew into San Francisco today and met with the UC Berkeley chapter. The presentation went well and then I met up with their executive board and discussed the possibility of their chapter eventually becoming a regional center for MEDLIFE in the future; they are very excited about it. I also talked to them about how it would be great to get more people involved. They also shared with me about their prerequisites for students wanting to go abroad on a Mobile Clinic -- there are classes that they require their participants to take before they go so that they are better prepared and effective for their trip. This sounds like an interesting idea that we could share with other chapters. It was a great day in Berkeley."
View Nick's photos from Berkeley, CA by clicking HERE
Next week, Nick will be travelling all over southern California, from San Luis Obispo down to Riverside. Check out the California tour schedule page to find out where he'll be exactly.
Sept. 27, 2012:
"Today I headed out to Virginia Commonwealth University for a presentation at 3:30 PM. The talk was at a big lecture hall; about 20 people showed up and it went really, really well. I was able to talk to students and their pre-health advisor for a while after the presentation and then a couple of the officers asked me if they could take me on a tour of their campus. They were incredibly hospitable; they even insisted on buying me dinner! Most importantly, I got to talk to them a lot about what their monthly goals should be, what the main themes are that they should be covering at every meeting and about sending students on Mobile Clinics via the 50:50 Campaign. Overall, it was a very positive day!"
View Juan's photos from Virginia by clicking HERE
Next week, Juan will be travelling to North Carolina and Maine! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the Southeast region tour schedule page.
Sept. 26, 2012:
"Today I met with Mrs. Gauthier at Grand Blanc High School. She is excited about setting up a high school Chapter at GBHS. Several of her students have been looking for an international clinical experience and it seems like MEDLIFE will fit that need well. Expanding MEDLIFE to high schools is a new venture for us, with our first group of highschoolers coming in November to Lima -- this should be fun and interesting. After the presentation, I hit the road for Toronto. Now I'm here safe and sound and getting prepared for tomorrow's talks at York and University of Toronto."
Next week, Sean will be travelling to Pennsylvania and Ohio! Find out where he'll be stopping by checking the Midwest region tour schedule page.
Sept. 27, 2012:
"Headed to Wellesley College around 11:30 AM to meet up with Nikita, a junior majoring in psychology and biology. The presentation went incredibly well, with about 20 or so students showing up. All were very attentive and asked questions throughout the presentation. At the end, everyone even stayed to ask more questions regarding the Mobile Clinics and how to get involved."
View more of Biz's photos from Mass by clicking HERE
This weekend, Biz will be heading to Rhode Island and Connecticut! Find out where she'll be stopping by checking the Northeast region tour schedule page.
Last week, Savannah King journaled about being a Summer Intern in Lima, Peru. Now, here's some background info on the Georgia native:
Where are you from?
Down south (of the states, that is). Marietta, GA -- a big city with a smalltown feel. My grandparents, parents and I all went to the same high school! Now, I'm in school at the University of Georgia. Go Dawgs!
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I came on a Mobile Clinic in March of 2011, spring of my freshman year at UGA. I had been to a few meetings previously, but lacked a passion for the organization. Those eight days in Peru gave me a heart for MEDLIFE and the people we serve. I joined MEDLIFE at UGA's leadership team as Membership Coordinator and then became the Mobile Clinics Chair in April of 2012. Being on the executive board, I've made some great friendships and deepened my dedication to MEDLIFE's mission.
Why did you decide to become a MEDLIFE intern?
I applied for the MEDLIFE internship because I wanted to do and see more than I could achieve in a week-long clinic. I desired to learn more about MEDLIFE's internal operations, our patient care and follow-up process, and what we're doing to address the root causes of the poverty and heath issues in the communities we serve. And while serving the communities as best as possible, I wanted my main goal to be pouring out love and kindness and attention on these people, because they deserve to know that they are cared for, and that they matter.
What was your first impression of Lima?
Lima is incredible. I love that I get to live in what I consider a big, urban city, but still on a residential street with adorable houses and apartments. I love being able to walk to the grocery store, or jump on the bus and get across town in a few minutes. The historical sights and the landscapes here are beautiful, but of course, the most shocking aspect of Lima is the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty.
What do you look forward to most this summer?
I am looking forward to seeing patients from beginning to end and getting to talk with our doctors and staff to learn more about not only medicine, but also how MEDLIFE is run. Honestly, I'm thrilled just with living in this city, making all these new friends and having the experience of living abroad, something some people will never get the opportunity to do in their entire life. I feel so blessed!
Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:
My favorite moments thus far have been the occasions when patients have made a point to come, kiss my cheek, shake my hand, smile at me and tell me thanks. It reminds me why I'm here and why it's worth it!
MEDLIFE has always been led by extraordinary individuals bent on committing their time, resources, and knowledge to bring Medicine, Education and Development to Low Income Families Everywhere. Tommy Flint has been no exception. As Tommy ends his career with MEDLIFE, our team wishes to extend our gratitude not only for his work as a staff member, but also for his admirable sense of integrity and compassion.
Beginning his MEDLIFE journey in 2009 as an intern in Riobamba, Ecuador, Tommy began assisting MEDLIFE's small staff of three in its mission to improve the overall welfare and health of remote communities in Ecuador. Working with our staff, Tommy was asked to wear multiple hats by providing assistance to the MEDVIDA staff during Mobile Clinics, assisting with patient follow-up, and serving as the liaison between MEDVIDA and all the passionate volunteers in the United States. During 2010 Tommy continued his efforts with MEDLIFE by relocating to Lima, Peru to assume the role of Director of Student Operations in the USA and to aid in expanding MEDVIDA's work into Peru. Working with staff in both MEDLIFE's operations in the USA and in Peru, Tommy worked tirelessly to provide Medicine, Education and Development to MEDLIFE's patients. Tommy aided in MEDLIFE's growth of nearly two-fold over the past year.
Tommy has contributed to helping MEDLIFE's name become synonymous with excellence, integrity and outstanding quality and service to the communities it serves. Keeping with the vision of MEDLIFE's simple yet goal-focused mission has provided a stepping-stone for MEDLIFE's constant growth -- one which MEDLIFE will use to reach even greater heights.
At a glance:
Written by MEDLIFE Director of Student Operations, Joseph Tylutki
A few words from Tommy:
Arriving alone at the Riobamba, Ecuador bus station to begin my MEDLIFE internship on Sept 15, 2009, I imagine that I had many of the same hesitations and concerns that most MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic participants initially face. Who will be picking me up? Will I be staying in a mud hut? Do they have internet here? Is it okay that I don't speak much Spanish? And, my most pertinent question: What is it the MEDLIFE does, anyways?
After receiving a gracious welcome from MEDVIDA Director Martha Chicaiza, many of my preoccupations were quickly alleviated. I lived with her and another intern, Isa, in a cozy apartment (I slept in the living room) with running water (not potable), electricity (excepting the daily outages), and, thankfully, internet access (abysmally slow). But although I spent the following months shadowing and assisting Martha in her work, I still found myself struggling to answer a question frequently posed by friends and family back home: So, what exactly do you do down there? While I could define the fundamentals of our operation -- at that time, primary care Mobile Clinics and dedicated patient follow-up care -- it still seemed I was leaving out some essential aspect of MEDLIFE's work.
Over the past two and half years, as the number of universities participating in MEDLIFE's mission has expanded nearly ten-fold, the answer to that question has become even more complex. Our Mobile Clinic program has grown to offer not only a much more varied array of medical services and exams, but also a blossoming educational component. Undergraduate students continue to serve in summer and year-round internships, preparing them for future careers in international development and global health. The most exciting innovation came from the creation of the MEDLIFE Fund, where projects are defined not by MEDLIFE staff, but rather by the needs and desires of the poor communities with which we work. In 2012, MEDLIFE will build stairs in Lima, conduct Pap smear exams and STI screenings, promote child nutrition educational campaigns, construct schools and bathrooms in Ecuador, extract teeth and fill cavities, train student leaders, and provide thousands of people with a consult with a doctor. Can all of that be boiled down into a single mission statement?
Recently, as I reflect on my own involvement with MEDLIFE, I've decided that the most relevant question isn't 'What is MEDLIFE?', but rather, 'Who is MEDLIFE?' MEDLIFE is Carlos Benavides, a former community leader who spends his evenings not at home with his family, but rather in the urban slum of Pamplona, seeking out hillside communities that would benefit from a concrete stairway. MEDLIFE is Jose Rodriguez, a Peruvian doctor who attends to each Mobile Clinic patient with an uncommon level of sensitivity and patience -- for some patients, it may be the first time a doctor has treated them with sympathy and respect. It's Martha Chicaiza, who has dedicated seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, towards the MEDLIFE cause since the first day I met her. It's every single student volunteer who arrives in Latin America full of hope, ambition, and the unshakeable urge to lend a hand to those in need. MEDLIFE is each patient who, after graciously receiving medical treatment, humbly and hopefully requests that MEDLIFE help a sick relative, or that we return to build a set of stairs outside of their home.
MEDLIFE is a group of incredible people, each of whom provide a unique skillset and perspective to our mission. It's a work ethic that demands that we all be ready to do whatever it takes, whenever it takes, to get the job done. It's a mentality that puts the needs of our patients as a top priority. It's a firm belief that our dedicated efforts can lead to long-term improvements in the lives of the poor.
I wish I could list here every single MEDLIFE staff member and intern, and recite their positive qualities and the impression they've made upon me. I wish I could personally tell each student volunteer that their enthusiasm for MEDLIFE's mission is what has driven my work since I arrived in 2009. And I wish I could tell each patient that there are thousands of MEDLIFE supporters in the USA and Canada that care about their well-being.
As I've now superceded my initial three-month commitment to MEDLIFE by some 27 months, the time has finally come for me to seek out new opportunities. I'm profoundly grateful to have met and worked with MEDLIFE staff, interns, and volunteers, and entrust that they will continue to fight for MEDLIFE's cause for years to come. Thank you to everyone who has supported me during my time here.