Post by Carolina Severiche, GEMx global exchange student from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Colombia) who completed her GEMx Exchange through the American University of Antigua to Interfaith Medical Center in NYC
Studying overseas can be one of the most amazing and unique experiences in a student’s life because they are thrust out of their comfort zone and get to challenge themselves with new adventures and learning opportunities. In my personal experience, doing a clerkship in the United States was no different. It was truly the most challenging and enriching opportunity for my medical training and life.
My name is Carolina Severiche, and I’m and a 5th-year medical student from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellín, Colombia. I’m a Spanish native speaker, Afro-Native American woman, and a lover of internal medicine and classic literature. I did a clerkship in internal medicine at Interfaith Medical Center in New York City during August and September of 2017. Interfaith is a full-service non-profit community hospital that has 287 beds and serves more than 11,000 inpatients each year. It is also a teaching hospital, with four graduate medical education residency programs and fellowship programs.
During my clerkship, I had the opportunity to grow and develop essential medical skills such as clinical reasoning, patient communication, physical examination, evaluation of evidence in patient management, and safe discharge planning skills. I did this while being part of an incredible internal medicine team which supported me in carrying out the daily rounds and the presentation of patient histories.
My experience in New York also went beyond my medical and academic interests and allowed me to grow in other significant and meaningful ways. The opportunity to work and live while speaking English as a second language was priceless to practice the language and gain new perspectives. Furthermore, experiences such visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), listening to jazz in Harlem, exercising in Central Park, or learning about the many gastronomic pleasures of the world’s most multicultural city; all helped me to gain a greater sense of awareness for the world’s cultures and people.
Together, these experiences helped me to realize the culturally relative reasons why others have different beliefs and behaviors, and as a result, I learned about empathy, compassion, and personal flexibility. I now feel closer to them as other humans, and can better appreciate their values and priorities. A lesson that is not only useful to me as a human and doctor but also as a practitioner who can now understand medical issues from a public health perspective.
By interacting and learning in this way, I have now developed a deep appreciation for public health and the social determinants of health. I saw first hand how culture alters health behaviors and beliefs, and better understand how social inequality between countries and inside a country determines patients health outcomes.
Given this, I now realize how important it is that organizations like the Global Education in Medicine Exchange (GEMx) exist. Programs like this support and facilitate students exchange in an affordable and accessible way that helps to build the kind of global understanding we need to improve health outcomes globally.
After this experience, I strongly feel that foreign exchange should be an essential part of medical training because students will develop culturally sensitive medical skills and learn about the importance of the social determinants of health in both a medical and public health context.
I am grateful for the opportunity GEMx afforded me, and know that it has made me a better human and doctor, and hope it can do the same for many more students to come.