Megan Bock '13 Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Interns in Chilean Medical Clinic
Megan Bock is a biology major from Holmdel, New Jersey. She applied for a Johnson Opportunity Grant to spend her summer in Chile, interning in a medical clinic.
I wake up at 7:45 a.m. to see my breath from the bitter cold, but I'm already prepared--I've been bundled up in multiple layers, including a fleece and slippers, throughout the night. Residential homes in Chile lack central heating, so the morning cold is always the worst. After I change into fresh layers for the day, I check that I have my lab coat and enough pesos to ride the micro to work. I eat breakfast downstairs in the kitchen and grab the lunch that my host mother prepared for me the previous night.
I walk around the block to the central plaza where I catch a micro, one of the most convenient forms of transportation between the "cerros" (hills) that make up Valparaíso. I depart the micro at the base of Cerro Barón, but always pause to appreciate the breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean, a mere fifty yards away. After I conquer the daunting climb to the top of Cerro Barón, I settle my belongings in my locker and change into my lab coat in the clinic. I then begin my day walking throughout Cerro Barón with Christian, a paramedic who works solely with bedridden patients. During these trips, I visit patients in their homes, including victims of terminal cancer, post-surgical recoveries, and even patients suffering from alcoholism. The majority of these visits are in extremely impoverished areas, which are very humbling experiences, but also rewarding when I can converse with and help console the distressed patient.
The Chilean healthcare system differs greatly from that of the United States, but that is a whole different discussion. I worked in a public clinic, which is financially supported by the government, to provide the lower class free of charge with preventative medicine and educational outreach. Consultorio Barón, one of the oldest and largest public clinics in Valparaíso, consists of numerous departments including maternal medicine, psychiatry, dental, social services, kinesiology, adult chronic illnesses, vaccination and wound care. I was welcome to work in any of these fields, and rotated through each department during my first week before choosing where I would like to go each day during my remaining time.
My favorite department is wound care, where I can clean and bandage ulcers, abscesses, stitches and other external injuries. The patients are always receptive to my presence, especially when they find out that I'm from the United States--boy, do they like to talk a lot, and very, very fast. This acceptance by the patients reflects the general attitude of the Chilean people who, according to my supervisor, Katy, "live through their hearts." This was apparent in my interactions with patients, my relationship with my host family and the dynamic of the clinic.
Lunch is the main meal of the day in South American countries, and it is no different for those working in the clinic. At one o'clock, I join the other thirty to forty doctors, nurses, and paramedics for lunch in the kitchen area, where we enjoy our time together cooking, chatting and laughing. After lunch, I return to one of the various departments to finish off my day's work until 4:30 p.m. when I head back home to my cerro to enjoy the evening with my host family and friends.