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The Beautiful Art that is Medicine

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

Josefa Santa Maria

Post by Josefa Santa Maria, a student ambassador from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Escuela de Medicina who has completed an exchange at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana Facultad de Medicina.

My GEMx Ambassador Experience: Exchange in Medellin

During the period that I worked as an ambassador for GEMx, I had the opportunity to participate in many activities, from virtual meetings to lunch with the dean of the faculty. However, probably the one that I will remember the most will be my Emergency Medicine elective in Medellin, Colombia.

One of the reasons why I applied to be an Ambassador for GEMx, is that I consider the values in medical education as something that transcends the geographical barrier, and the exercise of this in other countries (even in another city) is an enriching experience both academically and humanly speaking.

My personal experience doing the elective of Emergency Medicine at the Pontificia Bolivarian University in Medellin, Colombia, is something that I will definitely turn into one of my most precious memory. It was a great challenge (and I have to admit that I was even a little scared) to leave my comfort zone and to do part of my internship in a foreign country: everything was different: the schedule, the food, the academic requirement, the way of teaching, the responsibilities with patients, the shifts, and even though the language was Spanish all the same there were local words and expressions that took me a long time to understand, but none of that was an obstacle to get to the hospital every day with a big smile and my maximum enthusiasm to learn.

Posing in front of buildings

One of the things that I liked the most was the warm reception I received from my intern colleagues, the doctors and especially the patients, who always asked me where I came from, and how did I feel living in Colombia, on many occasions I had very interesting conversations with them. They were always very happy and grateful for the attention I gave them, that was something that definitely left my heart full. In addition to having theoretical seminars every day and all the learning I got from each clinical case in the emergency service, my elective in Colombia allowed me to experience the diversity of the gastronomic culture of the area, to do tours around the city, in which I learned from the history and tradition of the neighborhoods of Medellin, and visit the nearby towns, where I  could enjoy wonderful landscapes.

Standing next to art mural

All in all, the 4 weeks I spent in Colombia helped me grow in different dimensions, both personally and academically. They helped me to be more independent, to improve my ability to adapt, to relate to different types of patients, and last but not least, to learn more about the beautiful art that is Medicine.

A GEMx Exchange in Brooklyn, New York: A Story About Why All Medical Students Should Study Abroad

Filed under: GEMx Global Network GEMx Student Reflections

smiling student

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

view from plane during flight to the US

En route to the United States!

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.

group of five women in hospital scrubs

With the surgery team made up of fellow exchange and medical students

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.

two smiling medical students

Another of my classmates and myself on the medical floor at the hospital

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.

Two girls in white coats smiling

Myself and one of my classmates on the medical floor at the hospital

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.

GEMx Program Manager Spotlight: Claudia Elena Villegas Stellyes, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Colombia)

Filed under: GEMx Program Manager Spotlights

Photo of Claudia

 A spotlight on Claudia Elena Villegas Stellyes,  Curriculum Development Coordinator at GEMx Partner, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Colombia)

What lead you to your current position of Curriculum Development Coordinator at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana? 
Since I was a medical student I was amazed about the possibility of share knowledge through out teaching. After I get my degree on medical school, I pursue a master´s degree on Education and Human Development. During my work on medical school and my postgraduate studies I had the opportunity to approach at areas such curriculum, teaching and learning methods and assesment. I wish to be part of projects and activities that could improve the process of learning and human development of my students and colleagues. Also work on medical education research and Internationalization.

Photo of Claudia's campus in Colombia

Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

Tell us about yourself: For example, What is your background? Where are you originally from? What are your hobbies?
I´m from Medellín, Colombia. I studied at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana Medical School, where I work right now. Also I got my master´s degree on Education and Human Development in Universidad de Manizales – Cinde. I´ve worked as physician on general practice, and teacher, tutor and academic coordinator of clinical years on Medical School. Right now I´m an associated professor and Curricula Development Coordinator. I like to read, photograph, go to the movies, ear music, travel to know about different places and cultures, do some workouts, and share with my family and friends.

What is your favorite part about being a faculty member at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana?
Sharing knowledge and life experiences with my students and colleagues

Describe how GEMx international exchange students may benefit by going on an elective at your institution.
I believe that there are so many things that include, the warmth and solidarity of our students, the high quality of our teachers, the opportunity of practice and develop competences and skills through out both learning and doing and the richness of our culture.

Another photo of Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana's campus

Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

How has the GEMx system helped you organize both incoming and outgoing students going on elective exchanges?
GEMx has helped in so many aspects, issues and ways. Always I’ve received a 100% of support of GEMx team. Every time I write, I get a quick answer and help.

What have you heard from your own students who have gone on a GEMx elective exchange?
That it´s an unique experience that helped them to grow not just as a professional, also as human being. The possibility of go to other places and learn about patients, peers, other educational and health systems and cultures is so worthy.

What is your favorite feature of the GEMx system?
It centralizes global experiences on medical education and provides unique opportunities for our students.

Would you recommend the GEMx program and its system to other schools and institutions in your region? 
Yes of course. I believe it’s so important and will help to promote integration and the growth of the networking. Also the development of projects related to medical education and cooperation between institutions.

To learn more about the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana Facultad de Medicina, please visit their GEMx partner profile page at and check out their electives in the GEMx system!

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