Pre-med student Erin Williams (Class of 2013) traveled to Peru as the 2011 Summer Dalton International Intern Scholar to learn about medicine and Peruvian culture. Along the way, this Arden, N.C., native learned some valuable lessons about life as well.
An International Studies major with a minor in Spanish and a concentration in Pre-Med, Erin shares her insights and experiences in a blog that chronicles her journey.
At the Hospital Miguel Cruzado Vera in Paita, a small facility in a waterside shantytown in Peru, Erin assisted Dr. Carlos More and his staff as they helped impoverished residents with needs that ranged from immunizations to emergency surgeries. Erin's firsthand experiences with mothers of sick children, caregivers of bedridden elders, and dedicated medical professionals in a developing country made an indelible impression.
In her own words:
May 12: First Days
I have made it to Piura, Peru, and I am quickly immersing myself in Peruvian culture and most of all the language. The people are amazingly friendly and I find myself speaking "Spanglish" more than anything . . .
May 13: Family & Nurturing
It takes a different kind of character to deal with the people of this poverty level, and it is inspiring. My host mother has been taking care of her mother, who lives in the house, for the past five years. . . She is staying alive by a feeding tube, and today my host father and I talked about the difficulties of the situation and the moral dilemma of taking them off support once you have already started. Again another reflection of the culture, in that there is a sense of responsibility for your family. They will take care of her until she dies naturally. I am learning so much already about how to nurture.
May 20: Makeshift Clinic in Amotape
Today was an amazing day. Dr. More, Dr. More's assistant, another doctor from EsSalud in Paita, and I traveled about 45 minutes down the coast of Paita to the tiny oasis of Amotape. . . It was a shanty town, but the colored buildings, flowers, greenery, and the tall yellow church against the backdrop of the canyon walls made it beautiful. We got out of the ambulance and walked into a small one room building, where we set up a makeshift clinic . . .The people, mostly elderly, were already beginning to line up outside. . . .each patient came in they would talk to one of the doctors and tell them what was ailing them. The doctors would give them a diagnosis, a small quantity of medicine if needed. . . Today was exactly what I wanted to experience while I was in Peru, and what I can see myself doing one day.
May 28: Surgery on a 12 year old boy
Today I was at the hospital in Paita, for another morning of surgery. But, I didn't know that today I would be assisting! I changed into my scrubs like I had last time, and walked into the OR where there was a 12 year old boy lying on the table. It was just him and me in there for a minute, and he hadn't been sedated or anything. I was looking at him thinking, this kid is amazingly brave to be lying there, fairly calmly, with nothing on but the surgical gown, hat, and booties. He was connected to an IV and was lying on the table, under the lights, in this frighteningly clean room knowing he was about to be operated on. I would have been in hysterics had it been me. He looked at me and there I saw the terror in his eyes. I was called out of the room and told to start washing my hands because I was going to be scrubbing in. . .Once in the OR, I was dressed in the surgical jacket and gloves. The boy at this point had been given the anesthetic, and we began to clean the area where we would be operating. . .I stood directly across from the surgeon and acted as the surgeon's third and fourth hands. I could hardly contain myself!
The Elizabeth A Dalton International Internship Scholarship is awarded to rising juniors and seniors like Erin Williams who are interested in gaining work experience abroad. Students must demonstrate maturity, leadership skills, academic commitment and a passion for international travel and service to others. An annual award of $5,000 is offered to the most competitive candidate who will represent the university in the most positive way. This scholarship was established on behalf of Queens University of Charlotte students by the Elizabeth Andrews Dalton Memorial Fund for International Internships. For details, contact Bill Means at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-337-2374.