In June 2016, Jesus Alvardo participated in FIMRC's Summer International Health Fellowship at Project Huancayo, Peru. Below, Jesus reflects on his time in the program and provides recommendations for pre-medical students like himself that may be considering spending their summer abroad.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background, where do you attend school, etc.
My name is Jesus Alvarado and I am a second year student in Temple University’s Honors Program. I’m pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience: Cellular & Molecular and a minor in Healthcare Management. I’m also on the Pre-Medical track, aspiring to one day become a physician and be able to give back to my community. I was born in Arequipa, Peru and moved to the Allentown, Pennsylvania in the United States at the age of 4 where I ended up growing up.
2. How did you find FIMRC, and what drew you to participating in SIHF at Project Huancayo?
In my first year at Temple I knew that i wanted to do something related to my career path abroad in the summer. I found out about FIMRC in my freshman class seminar as a previous FIMRC volunteer presented on her summer experience. From that moment I knew that I wanted to work with FIMRC in the summer so I did more research on the international organization. Coincidentally, one of FIMRC’s first project sites was Huancayo, Peru, a small city 7 hours away from the capital but also right next to Chupaca, a town where my Father grew up. A visit from FIMRC’s staff to an internship fair at Temple University provided the rest of the information about the application process that sealed my summer trip.
3. What were your first reactions to arriving on site?
When I first got to Huancayo, Peru, I felt a combination of astonishment at the beauty of Huancayo’s natural scenery and altitude sickness. Although, it is possible to take plane from Lima to Huancayo, there is nothing quite like the bus ride through the country. Pictures can’t capture mother nature’s beauty that you see first-hand. I only recommend that you bring altitude and motion sickness medication because Huancayo is pretty high up and the trip will take a few hours but I’d do it all over again. It doesn’t take long to acclimate to the altitude either.
4. What was your SIHF project?
My SIHF project was “Dale la mano.” My group visited several orphanages and schools to promote health awareness as well as spend time with the kids. In the short amount of time that we were there my group got really close to the kids and it was hard to say good-bye. My group made several presentations on basic hygiene and self-esteem but also participated in the kids’ events as well. From playing soccer to spending an entire day at a camp with them, we will never forget each other.
5. What clinical activities were you involved in?
I always tell my friends and people who ask me about my FIMRC experience that this is the perfect trip for a prospective pre-medical student. The FIMRC team created a wonderful schedule and itinerary that included a lot of clinical activities. During my time in Huancayo, I got to shadow several doctors in the OR and see a variety of specialties ranging from orthopedics to ophthalmologists. We also held many health campaigns across the city where we took vitals with certified nurses. Additionally, we visited a medical school in the city where we learned how to suture and other skills.
6. How did you feel at the end of your SIHF experience? Was there anything in particular that changed during your time there? (Language, skills improvement, comfort level, etc.)
The trip above all else was a humbling experience of what we take for granted in a first world country. I learned to look at things with a different eye without relying on technology. I saw a holistic approach of medicine that was very intriguing. However, the trip also helped me become a better leader as my SIHF project depended on my team’s creativeness, determination, and working as a group.
7. What's your favorite memory from your time in Peru?
My favorite memory from my time in Peru is the trip I took to Huaytapallana. Huaytapallana is a glacier in Huancayo at an even higher altitude than the city. It was a true physical test but I am really glad that I decided to go on the hiking trip. It took the entire day but I recommend it to anyone that visits Huancayo, Peru.
8. Overall, was it a valuable experience for you? Why?
I can’t stress enough how valuable this trip is. The month long adventure is the perfect combination of hard work and pleasure. From the food and the fun activities to the clinical and community service work, there is no other opportunity like theFIMRC program in Huancayo, Peru. I learned a lot about my future career path and giving back to the community but ultimately I learned a lot about myself.
For more information about this year's program, please visit www.fimrc.org/sihf. Spaces for 2017 are going quickly!