September 12, 2014 2:56 PM

Meet the Interns Year-long 2014 Part 2

Written by Rosali Vela

2014-molly-trerotola

Name: Molly Trerotola
Hometown: Andover, MA
School: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Major: Strategic Communication, Certificate in Global Cultures
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I learned about MEDLIFE my senior year through a campus-wide email. Though I was never involved in the chapter at my university, I admired the organization for its work and impact in the global community. I jumped at the opportunity when I heard about the internship and was overjoyed to learn I was accepted!
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I'm an east-coaster turned midwesterner when I fell in love with Madison, Wisconsin. Though my love for UW-Madison runs deep, my love for travel and discovering other cultures is even deeper. I was heavily involved in an international not-for-profit at my university and hope to continue working in the international field in the future. I'm a lover of Sudoku puzzles, my dog Lola, and the occasional yoga class. I eat pretty much anything—though I give preference to chocolate.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I was looking for a professional experience that would challenge me, and one I would learn an immense amount from. I've always been interested in pursuing non-profit work, especially in a Spanish speaking country. I saw working for MEDLIFE as an opportunity to experience a new part of the world while making a difference and gaining more experience in communication for non-profits. This internship checked off all the boxes—it was a no-brainer.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?: LIMA!! The city pretty much shouts at you from the moment you arrive. It is vibrant, loud, vast, and always packed with a multitude of things to do. The city buzzes with energy, and I can't wait to soak it in!
 

2014-nikita-guptaName: Nikita Gupta
Hometown: West Windsor, NJ
School: Johns Hopkins University
Major: Neuroscience
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: When I was a freshman, I was looking to volunteer in South America on a mobile clinic for a couple weeks. At that time, the MEDLIFE chapter at Hopkins was just getting started. The officers were so enthusiastic, I knew right away I wanted to get more involved with the organization. I applied for a board position, and went on a 2-week clinic to Lima, Peru that summer. Over the years I became the Fundraising Chair, Community Service Coordinator, and finally President of the Hopkins’ Chapter of MEDLIFE.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After returning from my service trip in Lima, I could never forget the people I had met and those whose work our efforts supported. I wanted to come back to Lima and continue supporting MEDLIFE’s mission. I had already decided to take a bridge year between college and medical school, and I wanted to volunteer abroad with a global health non-profit organization. The MEDLIFE year-long internship was the perfect fit.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised in New Jersey to parents of Indian origin. Last year, I spent a transformative semester studying abroad in Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa with the International Honors Program. After returning to America, I craved more… more travel, more cultural immersion, more personal growth. I now take every opportunity I get to explore new cultures. In my free time, I love to dance, and I have gone on tour with singers like Jay Sean and Sukhwinder Singh (the singer of Jai Ho). I am also very interested in women’s health and empowerment and hope to become an OB/GYN one day.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?: I love South American culture in general, but I have a special connection to Lima. When I first came here three years ago, I was blown away by the vast amount of love and warmth that I received from every single person I met. Everyone was so willing to share their music, food and dance with me; it made my time here so enjoyable. I remember listening to Joey Montana and Chino y Nacho for weeks after I came back, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for me!
 

2014-julie-mackinnon

Name: Julie MacKinnon
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
School: McGill University
Major: Geography
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I became involved with McGill’s MEDLIFE Chapter this past year at school. After going on a mobile clinic trip with MEDLIFE to Riobamba, Ecuador this past December, I knew I wanted to learn more about MEDLIFE as an organization and what they are working towards.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: Being given such a wonderful opportunity to learn a new language and travel, all while helping people, seemed like a pretty perfect combination to me. I’m looking forward to learning even more about MEDLIFE and how an organization like this works.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m originally from Canada, but have also lived in England, France, Singapore and the U.S. I am currently a senior at McGill University, and I’m hoping to learn more about pursuing a path in public health after living in Lima. I’m very excited to be living here, and I’m sure it will be a great new experience!
 
What was your first impression of Lima?: I’m so excited to be in Lima and to really get to know the city and appreciate all it has to offer. So far I’ve been blown away by how friendly everyone is, and how good the food is, and I’m sure I will love even more parts of the city as I get to know it better. 
 

2014-bill-attwellName: Bill Attwell
Hometown: Portsmouth, England
School: Leeds College of Art
Major: Creative Advertising
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: After I finished university I decided that I wanted to travel, and see more of the world. It became clear to me that the best way to do this is to travel with a purpose. MEDLIFE has given me this ideal opportunity, as I can combine this internship and my passion for creative work and design with my passion for traveling, as well as being able to do good in South America.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am an aspiring Art Director, with the dream of working in an advertising agency. I'm very open minded, a deep thinker, and I love creative ideas that solve problems. No matter where I go on this planet I often find myself in woodland areas, with a fascination for the nature which surrounds me. I love to Skate, Surf, and Go fast!
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?:  I wanted to use my skills to make a change, and MEDLIFE gave me that opportunity.
 
What was your first impression of Lima: My first impression of Lima was 'It is HUGE'. Like any large city it is extremely diverse and varied. The city has different districts which all seem like different cities to me, especially when I compare it to my tiny home town. One thing it has which I cannot compare to any other city I have seen before, is an area surrounding the city, packed tightly with poverty stricken areas. It is hard to have fun in the city, then look up at the hills and wonder how these areas might be able to have the same sort of fun?
 

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Name: Charlie Hartley
Hometown: Bethesda, MD
School: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Major: History and Pre-medicine
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I heard about MEDLIFE through the chapter at UW, which had just returned from a trip to Lima. I went to their spring semester meeting and was struck by the images they showed and decided to delve into the organization a bit deeper. As I was reading through the MEDLIFE website I noticed they had a year-long internship. I applied and lo and behold here I am!
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I guess the cliché message from super hero shows never really wore off. We may not be able to be Superman but we can do our part. Working for MEDLIFE is a great opportunity to be a part of an organization that is actively seeking to better as many people’s lives as possible. I feel honored and fortunate to have been brought into this organization and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead this coming year.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I enjoy exploring cultures and places I’ve never experienced before. I believe the best way to experience the world is through its food. I am a younger brother and have always enjoyed giving my sister a hard time - only because I look up to her. My family means the world to me and the world is my family.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?: It is exhilarating and chaotic. I’ve never experienced a place with such contrasting frantic and leisurely tempos. You’re racing to catch a combi one second and spending a few hours talking over a plate of ceviche the next. I can tell every day is going to have a new experience.
September 2, 2014 11:16 AM

Meet the Interns Year-long 2014 Part 1

Written by Rosali Vela

2014-claire

Name: Clare Lilek
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
School: University of Michigan
Major: Women's Studies and Spanish
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE:My beginning involvement with MEDLIFE was a whirlwind. My senior year of college I randomly heard about an upcoming Mobile Clinic trip to Riobamba, Ecuador and on a whim I signed up with only two months until the start date. After that initial commitment, I was in. I was in the MEDLIFE boat.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I love to travel and explore, yet one of my favorite things to do is curl up on the couch with a good book and a hot cup of tea. 
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I've known for a while that the "real world" isn't quite ready for me as much as I'm not ready for it. I didn't want to immediately go into more schooling or a career right after graduation because I still needed to explore the world. I craved travel and different experiences in the hopes of better informing my future path and goals. After experiencing a MEDLIFE mobile clinic trip first hand in Riobamba, I knew that this type of work is what I would want to do during my year off. Be in a different country, speak a foreign language, meet some inspirational people, and work for something that is larger and greater than myself.  
 

2014-julieName: Julie Ma
Hometown: Topeka, Kansas
School: Emporia State University
Major: Biochemistry and Spanish
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: Prior to receiving this internship, I had no experience with MEDLIFE. I wanted to serve somewhere in Latin America and after researching online and coming across MEDLIFE, I knew I wanted to be a part of their mission and contribute as an intern.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: It's a great opportunity to help those truly in need, gain practical skills doing something I love, and travel!
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am currently a senior and am interested in pursuing a career related to health. Wanting to get out of my comfort zone and Kansas, I studied abroad in South America last summer and realized how much travelling changed me for the better. Since then, I try to take every opportunity possible to help communities in need, specifically in health. In my free time, I love trying new foods, travel every chance I get, and the beach!  
 

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Name: Carlee Latimer
Hometown: Monroe, Wisconsin
School: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Major: Bachelor of Science in Community and Nonprofit Leadership
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After graduation I wanted to travel to South America and work for a nonprofit. Through researching online I stumbled upon MEDLIFE and it seemed like a great fit for me, so I applied!
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin with a big family.  I enjoy biking, hiking, painting, spending time with family and friends and eating cheese curds as often as possible.  
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: Becoming an intern at MEDLIFE just seemed to make sense for me.  It allowed me the opportunity to travel, gain perspective, meet so many new people, work with local communities, and improve my spanish skills!  Through this unique experience I look forward to growing both personally and professionally.  It was a real no-brainer for me.  
 

2014-lauraMcLungName: Laura McClung
Hometown:Leawood, Kansas
School: University of Southern California
Major:Biological Sciences, Minor in Spanish
 
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I got involved with Medlife the summer after my freshman year when two friends asked if I wanted to go on a trip to Tena, Ecuador to see what Medlife was about. We were inspired by the work that Medlife does and thought that other USC students would be as well, so we went back to school that fall and started USC's Medlife chapter. 
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After I went on my first clinic to Tena in 2011, I wound up attending two more mobile clinics to Lima, and I knew that I wanted to return someday to devote a more extended period of my time to Medlife's cause. The internship seemed a perfect way for me to learn more about how global medical non-profits function, while living abroad for a year, and helping to provide Medicine, Education, and Development to communities in need in the slums of Lima.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself: While I spent most of my time in college participating in pre-med-related activities, my two favorite things are food and music. I grew up playing the cello, and I love trying any and all kinds of food, so living in Lima will provide an exciting opportunity to discover all sorts of new food and music! 
August 5, 2014 8:22 AM

Meet the Staff: Luis Cartagena

Written by Diana Sotomayor

luis-cartagena-mtsHere at MEDLIFE we are proud to introduce Luis Cartagena, who has been working with MEDLIFE Ecuador for many years. Read more about Luis’ story below:

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Riobamba.  I have always lived here, I love it.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

I had been working as a bus driver for many years before I found out about MEDLIFE. Then, when MEDLIFE first started working in Riobamba I began volunteering as a bus driver for the organization. I knew my way around everywhere, so I offered MEDLIFE my bus and drove the staff and the volunteers wherever they needed to go.  After 3 years MEDLIFE had grown big enough that the position ‘Project Coordinator of Riobamba’ was created to ensure continuous and efficient development of the organization. I was offered the role- as I know the poor communities around the Chimborazo Province I was the ideal candidate for the job.

What is it that you like most about working with MEDLIFE?

I love to work on the Mobile Clinics because this is when we inaugurate most of the projects.  I find it very rewarding when a community is so grateful for what we do for them.  During the Mobile Clinics I enjoy being able to work on the different stations, for example the pharmacy station. I am very versatile and try to help with everything I can.

Can you name a particular patient that has had a strong impact on you?

When we go to the Mobile Clinics we see just about everything, the old patients really impress me.  They walk long distances and work very hard on a daily basis; regardless of their health conditions they always continue smiling.  I want to be like that when I grow up!

What do you do in your free time?

I still love my bus so in my free time I take pleasure in going on trips and driving very long distances.  I like to drive up to Colombia or down to Perú for the “Romerías” –a procession in honor of the Virgin Mary. I am very fond of the religious parade and the spectacular views on the drive there.

July 25, 2014 8:56 AM

Meet the Interns Summer 2014 Part 2

Written by Rosali Vela

Meet our new MEDLIFE Summer Interns 2014 Part 2!

2014-dom-2Name: Dom Grisafe
Hometown: Fontana, California
School: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Major: Biochemistry
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?: One of my friends was starting a chapter at my school two years ago. He invited me to an informational meeting describing the mobile clinics in Lima, Peru, and I’ve been hooked on MEDLIFE ever since.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?: I was excited to be in the middle of a thriving metropolis when I came to Lima for the first time two years ago. It was more of a dream-like feeling then. My mobile clinic only lasted a week, and I was disappointed to leave so quickly after arriving. When I returned for the internship this last July, I was once again in awe of Lima, but also invigorated to finally be able to get an in-depth experience in the city.

My favorite part so far: A few days ago I visited an impoverished beachside community with Janet, one of the local nurses that works with MEDLIFE. We delivered bundles of medical test results to local community leaders that volunteered to distribute the results to each individual patient. It was incredible to see the local Peruvian people rally together to take care of their own. I realized that our organization only begins with the nurses, office staff, college students, and doctors. I discovered that MEDLIFE runs deeply through each of the people that live in the communities we serve. 
 

2014-diana-2Name: Diana Isabel Sotomayor
Hometown: Lajas, Puerto Rico
School: University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Major: Biology

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I discovered the organization through friends that participated in Mobile Clinics.  When I read the organization’s mission, I knew this was somewhere I wanted to work in.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I knew I wanted to contribute to MEDLIFE since I learned about the organization and how it incorporates education and development in its medical clinics.  I could relate immediately because I aspire to contribute towards the improvement of global health by addressing education and development issues (among others) at local and international levels. These three pillars are fundamental to create change in a long-term and sustainable way.  
My favorite part so far: By constantly being exposed to different settings and people with individual needs I have learned to approach issues in a more comprehensive and holistic way while understanding and respecting socio-cultural differences.  In this process I have learned more about myself: interests, weaknesses and strengths.  Also, that I have definitively reassured my professional aspirations to continue working within the public sector towards achieving a healthier society.
July 21, 2014 9:35 AM

Meet the Patient: Byron Buñay

Written by Diana Sotomayor

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As a summer intern in MEDLIFE at Ecuador I was given the responsibility of giving follow up visits to patients that MEDLIFE doctors had previously seen in mobile clinics. These patients have come from various communities and have been referred to hospitals in Riobamba because they have specific conditions that require seeing a specialist.  One of the patients I was assigned to meet Byron Buñay, a two year old with a cleft palate who MEDLIFE met a year ago. MEDLIFE had found him in a very delicate and malnourished state as he was unable to naturally ingest food due to his condition; his case had once been a matter of life or death. MEDLIFE knew they had to do something to help, so firstly, they paid for his first restorative surgery.

When I first met Byron it was on the day of his medical evaluation in the Riobamba hospital, he smiled at me as if I was his lifelong friend and he offered me a genuine; adult-like handshake immediately after seeing me.  As I introduced myself to his mother, my initial thoughts were that the little guy that I had just met seemed too mature, happy and healthy to be the two year-old cleft palate patient I had been told of. I was sure this couldn’t be Byron, and assumed it was his older brother.

I thought we were waiting for Byron to arrive, so in the meantime I asked this spirited toddler some basic questions one would normally ask a little one like him:  What´s your name? How are you? How old are you? Excited, he answered my questions immediately while making very expressive hand gestures. At first I could not understand him and I figured he was speaking Quichua, like his mom and locals at his community did.  I asked again, in case it was me that was misunderstanding what he was trying to say with so much emotion.  He tried again, this time determined to answer my questions but only sounds came out of his mouth.   Aware of my clear inability to understand what he intended to be explicit and eloquent responses; he finally gave up and smiled sympathetically.  Suddenly I realized that the bold child that had greeted me with such vividness was the cleft palate patient I was waiting for, he had grown and gained weight since his last picture was taken in his first surgery but that was still unable to verbalize words due to his internal oral physiology.

I then joined Byron’s parents Elsa and Raúl in their long wait for the pediatric surgeon’s confirmation that he could be pre-admitted for surgery, the couple narrated the difficulties they have been through with their child’s condition and how desperate they were a year ago to find medical help for him.  As Elsa recalled: “He was very skinny because he could not eat, breast milk used to come out through his nose every time I tried to feed him.  We had to give him iron supplements through a pipette in order to counteract his malnourishment”.  She could not be more grateful for the immediateness of MEDLIFE’s mobilization to help her find and obtain the specialized medical care her baby urgently needed.

She also told me that after MEDLIFE financially supported them in Byron’s first restorative surgery, the baby’s feeding difficulties relieved significantly as he was able to incorporate soft foods such as grains and bland fruits in his limited diet which had allowed him to gain around 30 pounds.  No wonder I could not recognize him when I first met him! Even though he still had a long way to go in terms of achieving a full recuperation that would allow him to eat anything and articulate his first words, she could not have been more relieved that their child had been saved.

Byron´s father Raúl joined his mother and me as we talked just about everything including the land that they farm, the products that they sell in the market to earn a little bit of money on a daily basis and, what I did not expect was that he even asked about Puerto Rican politics!   Encouraged by the non-stop conversation, he casually mentioned a small detail they had not told me before and what he described had been a “complicated morning” … It turns out that a day that should have been naturally emotional for any parent whose child will be soon submitted to surgery, became even more stressful than expected when the front tire of the car in which they were travelling blew up during their 4 hour journey and got them into a minor car accident.  The Police showed up quickly and generously offered the family transportation to the hospital where I met Byron and his mom while his dad went into the ER because of minor bruises in his face and arms.  Thankfully he received immediate medical help and was able to participate in his child’s preparation for surgery.  Talk about a complicated morning!

Byron was successfully submitted to his second restorative surgery on the following day and spent the next 2 days in the hospital at Riobamba under rigorous medical care.  I was given the opportunity to visit him and of course, he received me with a big bright smile.  His strong parents could not find enough words to thank MEDLIFE for the medical and financial support that the organization had given them throughout the past year.

Byron Buñay is now recovering from his surgery in his community in the Alausí Canton, where I plan to visit him in a couple of weeks to track his progress.  MEDLIFE will continue supporting Byron’s family in his follow up medical appointments in Riobamba until their doctor announces that he is ready for the third and hopefully final surgery that will fully close the upper roof of his mouth and allow him to articulate his first words.

I can’t wait to hear what this charismatic child has been waiting to say for so long.  My best wishes for Byron and his beautiful family!

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