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GEMx Supports the 5th CICoM Student Competition in Mexico City

Filed under: From GEMx Staff GEMx News GEMx Sponsored Events

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City, Mexico to from February 3-7 for the 5th Edition of the of CICoM (Concurso Internacional de Conocimientos Médicos), taking place at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s (UNAM) Campus.  UNAM is a GEMx partner and has maintained a membership in the GEMx global network since the pilot of the program in 2013.  Through this partnership, the GEMx staff has forged long-standing relationships with leadership at UNAM, including Dr. Melissa M Islas Upegui, who oversees the International Program at the Faculty of Medicine, Movilidad Académica y Vinculación Interinstitucional (Mavi), and Dr. Irene Durante Montiel,  Secretary-General of the medical school.

GEMx was proud to be a sponsor for the fourth consecutive edition of the event, and it was an honor to witness the competition and observe the impressive display of medical knowledge demonstrated by student participants was hugely impressive.  As part of GEMx’s sponsorship, we were given the opportunity to present on GEMx global exchange network and other ECFMG | FAIMER service during the competition.

About CICoM

CICoM was launched in 2014, and has been taking place annually since its commencement (the quiz was canceled in 2017 due to the earthquake that hit Mexico City).  The event is student-run, with a self-elected organizing committee responsible for organizing and coordinating the competition.

This year, 28 teams participated from across Latin America, with six students per team, and a least one faculty member accompanying them to the Mexico City.

Quiz Format

The contest is divided into multiple rounds.  Each round includes the 15 questions, with 60 seconds provided to teams to huddle and decide on their answer to each question.  Teams then have five seconds to appeal to the jury, consisting of six medical professionals practicing in Mexico City. After the first round, the 16 top-scoring universities advance, with the remaining universities participating in the “Repechage”  or “consolation” bracket.

This tournament format continues over the next three days, ending in a head-to-head round competition between the remaining two teams.

The final standings of the 2020 CICoM competition were:

Fourth Place – University of Sonora, Hermosillo (Mexico)

Third Place  – Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (Mexico)

Second Place – Universidad del Rosario (Colombia)

First Place – CES University (Colombia)

Congratulations to all participants in this year’s CICoM event, and a special “felicitations” to the winning team from CES University in Medellín, Colombia (a GEMx partner!)

Feedback from Student Participants

Student Video Interviews with the Organizing Committee:


“I feel very happy, since it is a very positive experience that is full of learning, not just about Medicine. It is an opportunity to make new friends. ”Diana Marcela Lizate, University of Manizales,

“For my team and for me, it was a great pride to be here, representing our state and our faculty in this house of studies. We are very happy to have this experience. ” Oscar García Carbajal, Veracruzana University, Mexico

Cultural Activities in CICoM

In addition to the medical knowledge competition, quiz participants enjoyed various cultural activities, such as guided visits to the archaeological zone of Teotihuacán, to the Historic Center of Mexico City, and the School of Medicine building.   Students also had the opportunity to take in performances by UNAM’s  Mexican Folk Company, as well as the UNAM orchestra.

Interested in Participating in Future CICoM Events?

CICoM is open to all medical schools internationally.  If you are a medical student interested in participating in a future edition of the quiz, message CICoM through one of their social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Instagram) and a member of their organizing committee will be able to provide information and next steps in registering a team from your institution.

Sharing Experiences That Changed My Life

Filed under: GEMx Global Network GEMx Student Ambassador Network GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Fuensanta Guerrero del Cueto,  Student Ambassador at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) guest speaker at the Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara,  Nepal.

I believe in the importance of understanding and embracing diversity as a fundamental part of the medical profession.

When I was elected to be a Student Ambassador at UNAM, my main aim was to share my love for medicine, education and cultural exchange with fellow students who would later become my colleagues. If we can see ourselves in our patients, their families, other students, and doctors, no matter how different they may seem at the beginning, empathy will drive us to provide the best care that we can. An international experience is a great element to encourage it, and this is what I tried to transmit at the Leadership in Medicine lecture on 17 November 2016 during CICOM.

I was invited as a guest speaker to share my GEMx exchange experience at Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara, Nepal in 2015. I was very excited until I knew that it would take place at the main auditorium of my school, which has room for 965 people, in front of all the UNAM and visiting students that were present at the contest. This certainly posed a challenge, since as a teaching assistant I had only given lectures to 40 or 50 students maximum. I felt that this great audience deserved to hear not only my story, but those of all UNAM students who had gone to Nepal before me, so I decided to compile pictures and quotes to show them why this elective had changed all our lives.

Embracing traditions: the celebration of Teej women’s festival with nurses from the Hospital

I told them that I had chosen Nepal because there was no place further away from Mexico that I could have traveled to (it is almost our geographical antipode). However, this turned out to be even more challenging because I arrived right after the 2015 earthquake and during a fuel crisis period. What shocked me at first was the difficulty to communicate with patients whose language I did not speak or understand. However, language barriers encouraged my reflection, since they are always present, not only with Nepali but even with Mexican indigenous languages or when caring for people without formal education.

Additionally, the importance of traditions and family structure is shared between my country and Nepal, and this is something that must not be overlooked by the medical professionals. Lastly, the strength of our people to “do more with less,” overcoming hardships and getting the best out of what they have is one of the most admirable qualities that we share with Nepal.

An elderly woman carrying wood during the fuel crisis. In the background, you can see Manipal Teaching Hospital and the Himalayan range

Community Medicine elective allowed me to approach marginalized populations in Tibetan refugee camps or in the mountains, where medical attention is difficult to access. The similarities between this country and my own were very meaningful for me. I became more aware of social and environmental determinants of health, and how patient education and empowerment are fundamental in these settings. This supported my decision to choose Global health and One health pathways for my medical career.

The opportunity to tell my story and try to inspire others was one of the best experiences as a member of the Student Ambassador Network, which I tried to continue during my outreach activities. I believe that medical students who dare to go out of their comfort zone will discover that “the others” are very similar to themselves. We need to become less isolated from one another in an increasingly globalized world where developmental and health challenges transcend national boundaries.

Team for outreach clinic with British nurses and Nepali doctor


A Firsthand Account of the Devastating Earthquake That Hit Central Mexico on September 19, 2017

Filed under: GEMx Student Reflections

We here at GEMx have valued the development of reciprocal, supportive and enduring relationships with the students we serve well after their exchanges are behind them. We also understand that expanded perspectives and growth opportunities occur in individual daily lives as much as through international travel and exchanges, which is why we are especially honored to share an introspective account by one such student. – Carol Noel Russo, GEMx Senior Coordinator

Photo of post author, Mercedes

Mercedes Aguilar Soto

Post by Mercedes Aguilar Soto, Medical Student at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Facultad de Medicina (Mexico) who recently completed a GEMx Elective at PAGNY (New York)

The Earthquake

I have lived my whole life in Mexico City, I was born here, I studied here and I will probably continue living here. I always tell people I have a love-hate relationship with this city because it has a lot of problems but at the same time it has a lot to offer to its citizens and visitors.

As I said before I studied here and I have done my medical training in hospitals in this city. Right now I am doing my intern year in a very big hospital that was founded around the 1900’s and has been working since. I am currently finishing my rotation in Emergency Medicine, which is one of the busiest areas of the hospital and I stay there for 24-hour shifts every three days.

This last September, Mexico City and other cities in Mexico experienced two devastating earthquakes, and I was in the hospital on call during both of them. The first one, on September 7th happened around midnight. Since Mexico is considered a seismic zone, alarms have been installed around the city and they are supposed to get activated as soon as there is an earthquake detected in the coast of Mexico, which gives us around 30-60 seconds to evacuate buildings.

This first earthquake was scary, but we all had enough time to leave the building and to make sure everything and everyone was OK. I called my family immediately since we live in one of the high-risk zones and was happy to hear that everybody was doing all right. Other zones of Mexico, especially Oaxaca were really affected, but Mexico City seemed to be doing fine.

I must say that earthquakes in my hospital are scary, not only for its location in a high risk zone, but because in 1985, on September 19th a huge earthquake hit Mexico City and damaged a lot of buildings including several towers in this hospital including the OB/Gyn tower, the residency and several others. I still have professors who remember friends who died during that horrible earthquake, which is why we always get an uneasy feeling whenever there is an earthquake.

The next morning, on September 8th, engineers and safety staff checked the whole hospital and told us it was suitable for working, so everything went on like nothing had happened. When I came home my mother hugged me really hard and I realized she had been very worried since she remembered the hardships the hospital went through in 1985. But luckily we were all fine. However, we did not expect another earthquake to happen so soon.

Every year on September 19th, as a way to remember the 1985 earthquake and to remind us all of the protocol to follow in case of this kind of disaster, in all schools, hospitals and offices; an evacuation drill is performed so that we are all informed on what we are supposed to do in case there is a real earthquake.

This last September around eleven in the morning, we were all requested to evacuate the building and count the number of people to see if we were all complete. After the drill everybody went back to work like nothing had happened. As usual, the ER was full of people and we were all doing our jobs as we normally do. Later on, I was running some tests on a patient when one of my colleagues told me that an earthquake was beginning. I turned around to ask her about it because I didn’t hear the alarm and I didn’t feel anything, but as soon as I turned my head I felt the floor pulling me to one side and realized it was a strong earthquake, but luckily I was close to the door so I was out of the building in ten seconds. Later on we discovered the alarm wasn’t activated before the earthquake because the epicenter was not in the coast but close to land so the usual alarms were not able to detect it.

While we waited for the earthquake to stop I saw nurses praying and a friend of mine crying because she was really scared. I grabbed her hand and told her everything would be OK, only to find myself wanting to cry too and with my hands sweating. The earthquake probably lasted a minute or so, but it felt like forever. When it was finally over, the chief of service and the safety staff started counting everybody and told us to walk calmly to another safety zone.

While all this was happening I was receiving texts from my family who were all in different places around the city. My father was walking back home from his office, when he realized there was an earthquake happening and he started running towards my house. On his way he found one of the many buildings that fell down and with his hands still shaking he took a picture of it. He continued running to my house, to find that luckily it was still in place.  After telling us he was doing fine and that our house was OK he sent us the picture of the building, and then news started running in the hospital: there were a lot of buildings that had fallen down and rescuers were on their way.  My boyfriend called me, almost crying, and told me that buildings had been falling down around the city. I realized that this had been a terrible earthquake.

A photo of some of the devastation caused by the Mexico City earthquake

For several minutes we didn’t know what to do, we were waiting for instructions from the engineers when we started smelling gas, which is one of the many dangers of an earthquake: the leakage of gas from cylinders and tanks that get broken during the movement. Since the source of the leakage was unknown we received orders to evacuate the building until further notice, but we needed to take the patients out. I was worried that there could be an explosion any minute, especially since all hospitals have oxygen pipes than run under the hospital, but I stayed and tried to help getting out the patients.

After an hour or so we were told that the leakage was outside the hospital and that it had been taken care of, so we were safe to go back to the building. The rest of the hospital tried to discharge all of their patients, since we didn’t know how many injured people we would get. The attending in charge came to all of the interns and told us that those of us who wanted could leave if we needed to, and if we had a night shift that day only half of us were expected to stay. I talked to my friends and we all decided to stay, even a friend whose father was in the ICU in another hospital that was rumored to be damaged and another friend who hadn’t heard from her family.

Since the number of injured people was unknown we received orders to discharge all patients that could be discharged so there could be enough space available for rescued people that might come from all over the city. However, the hospital in which I work is not specialized in trauma so all the patients were first sent to trauma hospitals.


GEMx Elective Reflections – Student Exchange from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (Mexico) to American University of Beirut (Lebanon)

Filed under: GEMx Global Network GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Latife Salame Khouri, Medical Student at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (Mexico) who completed a GEMx Elective in Family Medicine at American University of Beirut (Lebanon)

What have you gained from this exchange experience offered through GEMx?  What were the benefits?

The benefits are both academic and personal. I gained a broader view of how Medicine can be practiced. I gained responsibility and maturity for living alone for a month in a different country than mine. I gained contacts in Medicine and friends for life. GEMx gave me the opportunity to be part of one of the best Medicine Schools in the Middle East.

How did you prepare for your elective exchange?  Were you prepared?

I prepared through life for my elective exchange. I didn’t get through a special preparation for it. Before my elective I already knew the languages I needed to go to the country I chose. I went to a multicultural school so I was used to be immersed in a culture different than mine. Academically, I felt that I was well prepared to learn and work in my elective.

What did you learn from this experience both personally and professionally? 

GEMx is a great opportunity to know how Medicine is done in countries with different cultures. I am from Mexico and I did the exchange in Lebanon. I practiced Medicine in arabic and english which was a great intellectual exercise. I learned a different anthropological approach to diseases. I learned to live in a city different than mine. I also met a type of public health system and I was able to compare between Mexico’s and Lebanon’s system.

How did you feel when you returned to your home school?

I felt satisfied because I represented well my home school in another country. I realised that my home school gave me the tools to practice good Medicine all around the world. I felt happy because I met great people in AUB and I kept in touch with them. I was very proud of my home school for being part of this project.

How is this learning relevant to you now that you are back?  Can you give any examples?  Will you do anything differently now?

My elective was in the department of Family Medicine of AUB. Lebanon and Mexico are similar in the lack of a strong primary care system, but the department of Family Medicine of AUB actually does a great job in primary care. I learned from my elective exchange that good primary care is possible in the health system of my country and I hope to make a difference there.


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