April 30, 2018 3:40 pm

MEDLIFE UK Intern: Arka Banerjee

The MEDLIFE Internship in Lima, Peru was a fulfilling and highly enjoyable experience. I appreciated the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals and a movement that is passionate about making a positive difference and improving the living standards of the disadvantaged in the world.
As a medical student, I have a keen interest in working to ensure access to good healthcare for all globally. Working with local doctors, dentists and nurses in the mobile clinics gave me the opportunity to work towards this goal.

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Along with the mobile clinics, being involved in a variety of projects ranging from building infrastructure to education highlighted MEDLIFE’s holistic approach to development and helping the disadvantaged escape poverty. I was excited to be involved in the various development projects, and enjoyed meeting and working with new friends, both from the UK and Peru. The internship also provided the opportunity to learn more about the struggles and individual stories of the disadvantaged in Lima. Through the sharing’s, I gained insights into the nature of the problems that those in poverty face, as well as how we can work together with the disadvantaged to alleviate these problems.

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I learned that poverty and its associated challenges, although often having many common elements, is a heterogeneous phenomenon with every person having a different story and set of needs. One-size-fits-all policies and programmes, especially those carried out without consulting the disadvantaged, may be less effective. Personally speaking, I believe the internship has changed my thoughts and perceptions of poverty and development for the better. I feel I have a more holistic understanding and perspective on what can be done to increase standards of living worldwide, and I am looking forward to implementing these in future projects with MEDLIFE and in my University in future. All in all, I would say it was an eye-opening and highly enriching experience and I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved in it.

- Arka Banerjee, 1 st Year Medic, University of Cambridge

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When Nandini Razdan's MEDLIFE internship in Lima, Peru concluded in the spring of 2013, she returned to her home in the United States feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Nandini's intern experience was life-changing, eye-opening, and left a significant mark on her, but she soon began wishing she had made more of an impact on the lives of those who had changed hers. “These patients graced me with an invaluable experience, but what have I done for them?” Nandini asked herself.

Nandini answered her question by revisiting the case of a patient whom she met during a patient follow-up care visit. Eduardo, a MEDLIFE follow-up patient with Cerebral Palsy, made make frequent trips to the emergency room due to difficulty breathing, where he was then forced to wait several hours each time to be seen by a physician. Eduardo's situation frustrating to Nandini, so she knew she had to do something to help.

Remembering Eduardo's story, Nandini decided to fundraise for an in-home breathing machine so Eduardo would not have to relive the pain and discomfort of his frequent trips to the hospital. A few Facebook posts and less than 24 hours later, Nandini reached her goal of $325 to afford the equipment. Nandini became the first MEDLIFE intern to personally fundraise for a project—but it wouldn't be her last.

A year later, Nandini heard mention of another patient in desperate need for medical equipment he could not afford. She learned that Julio Pineda, living in the slums Lima, Peru, lost his leg due to uncontrolled diabetes, and was in need of  a prosthetic replacement so that he could provide for his family as a taxi driver. Julio was able to navigate his home on crutches and was given a prosthetic leg on-loan from the hospital, but these were only temporary fixes he could not depend on long-term.

348-2Even though Nandini concluded her intern responsibilities long before she heard of Julio Pineda's story, MEDLIFE and the people it helps were still very important to her. Nandini seized the opportunity to help Julio the same way she helped Eduardo. “I realized that if a person is in a position to help someone, you should not hesitate to do it,” she explained.

This time, though, Nandini's task was much greater: Julio's prosthetic leg would cost $1,700. Though a bit daunting, Nandini admitted, the number did not deter her; it only encouraged her to get the message out about Julio's situation to more people in her network. Though raising the necessary funds  took a little longer than it did for Eduardo's campaign, Nandini reached her second goal in only two months. She attributes the success of her campaign to persistence and the generosity of her friends and family. “People see your sincerity and are then more than willing to help you help others,” she explained.

When MEDLIFE told Julio of the good news—that he would be getting his prosthetic leg—he welled up with emotion. “I feel really happy,” said Julio. “Please tell her that I am really happy and appreciative,” he said, expressing his immense gratitude to Nandini and her supporters. As of February 2015, Julio Pineda has been given a new lease on life, made possible by Nandini's dedication to his case. Julio was measured, prepped, suited for his prosthetic leg, and is underway to walking on two feet again.

Nandini's efforts not only went above and beyond what the MEDLIFE internship role entails, but her work also encouraged succeeding interns to do the same. “I am so happy that the momentum was picked up by later interns for their own projects,” Nandini said. Nandini was certainly able to accomplish what she set out to do to when her internship concluded, and her impact is sure to endure. Her example continues to inspire others to do what they can to make a difference for MEDLIFE's patients.

 

December 2, 2014 2:33 pm

Julie Ma's Intern Journal

My first experience in Lima, Peru did not begin with the MEDLIFE internship, but with a study abroad program during the summer of 2013. After taking many of the Spanish classes offered at my university, I decided the next step was full immersion in a Spanish speaking culture to become fluent.

I experienced culture shock from the minute I landed at the airport Lima. Beginning with a sea of unfamiliar faces and swarming “taxistas” wanting to offer me their services, I had a feeling my time in Peru would be challenging, but interesting to say the least.

With freedom to explore Lima and Peruvian culture as I studied, it soon became apparent how much poverty truly exists and how much of a need there is for help. With this realization, my perspective of Lima and my study abroad experience shifted from an opportunity for cultural exploration, to a desire to help combat social issues that came into my view.

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When I searched for internships the following year, I came across MEDLIFE and knew I had to get involved in some way. The internship appealed to me for many reasons. The MEDIFE mission statement sealed the deal for me, as it resonated with my personal beliefs and the values: health is a basic human right, and it can be achieved through medicine, education, and development. The internship also allowed me to live abroad for a period much longer than the short term of my study abroad program, while also gaining relevant experience for my career. It was a no-brainer.

Though my second trip to Peru with a completely different purpose, the arrival in August of 2014 was just as exhilarating as the first time in 2013. Although I had no prior experience with MEDLIFE before applying for the internship, I was eager to learn and experience everything MEDLIFE has to offer and do the same in return.

In my first four months here, I have collected many humbling experiences and learned a lot from being out in the field. My experiences meeting follow-up patients, building staircases, speaking with an entire community about potential projects and clinics, and communicating with student participants who are just as dedicated and passionate about the mission as I am has been incredibly uplifting.

One exceptional experience that has stood out to me was constructing a staircase with the group of MEDLIFE interns and the community members of 33B, located within Villa Maria del Trifuno. Staircase constructions do not generally emerge in peoples' minds as useful projects that will benefit an entire community; I know it didn't for me. However, when interns go into the field—whether it's for a patient follow-up or to deliver Pap smear results from mobile clinics—Carlos and the nurses never fail to acknowledge the real danger of the steep hills many communities rest on. Carlos and the nurses point out the many red staircases MEDLIFE has built to combat this prevalent issue over the years, and it is a inspiring reminder of MEDLIFE's progress working in these communities.

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I never truly realized the importance of the staircases and the immense relief it provides in communities we work with until I heard testimonials of the people living there and the desperation in their voices during the nighttime meetings with them. People said they fear for the safety of the women, children and the elderly. Often times, the people of the community risk their lives many times a day just climbing up the hills to their homes. Women carry groceries or their children, and children face danger every day just in order to go to school. They do this in any and all weather conditions, health, and subject themselves to threatening falls in order to survive. They do this not because they want to, but because they do not have a choice, and they shouldn't have to live their lives this way.

Having fallen a few times myself, I know my minor slips are nothing compared to the treacherous journey of the community members. It's not an easy hike for many of the families in the hills and the dangerous conditions would not be suitable for anyone.

Participating in my first MEDLIFE staircase project was a rewarding and unique experience. It was gratifying to see progress from the start of a path of stones to a finished, chiseled, newly-paved staircase. I was thoroughly impressed with the teamwork and the comradery between MEDLIFE and the community members. We worked hand in hand, helping each other carry buckets of cement to fill the stairs then tossing the empty buckets back up uniformly. Before we knew it, we were finished and enjoying each other's company while we painted, planted trees, and enjoyed Inka Cola. All our hard work was celebrated in the inauguration of the staircase, the community and MEDLIFE full of smiles.

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Although these staircase projects among many MEDLIFE projects and clinics do not provide complete healing and safety, it is a step forward and is a means of alleviating the transportation dangers that comes with living in the slums of Lima. It's not a significant project but makes all the difference to the 300 habitants of 33B. As we left the hills that afternoon, we could see the vibrant red that shone through the slope, a sign of all our collaborative hard work, and we know there will be many more similar sights to come. This is only the beginning, and MEDLIFE's work carries on.

August 5, 2013 10:03 am

Intern Journal: Pockets of Poverty

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Ben and I decided to eat a sturdy lunch that day. We didn't know what Carlos had in store for us in the field that afternoon. In the past we had done all kinds of things under Carlos's guidance, from hiking way up the hills of Pamplona Alta to visiting patients in distant areas. What we hadn't anticipated was visiting the old part of a particularly green area within Lima called Surco, which Carlos fondly referred to as the "lung of the environment." This was swiftly followed by a trip with two men from the municipality to a little patch of land in the outskirts of Surco that overlooked greenery, but had none itself.

Published in Intern Journal
July 18, 2013 9:18 am

Intern Journal: A Day of Firsts

This week, the MEDLIFE interns are working on building a new staircase with the community of Jesus Obrero in Villa Maria de Triunfo. Intern Lara Chambers, a student from the UK, writes about the process leading up to this project: 

internstairsThe interns carrying materials up to the staircase. From left: Swathi, Sunita, Chanee and Lara

Having arrived in Lima at the beginning of the week, Benjamin, Karolien and I got our first opportunity to go into the field on Thursday afternoon.

We rode on combis with Carlos, the director of MEDLIFE in Peru, and Inge from the communications team to the community of Jesús Obrero. It was our first experience of Peruvian transport, and it was certainly different from what we were used to! The bumpy ride, on an old bus, filled to the brim with people is a far cry from the established, modern bus system which exists in Great Britain. However, the bus had character, it was typical of Lima, and as Carlos said "así es Perú!"

We visited a part of Lima where people live without running water and without lights up in the hills. For me, it was my first experience of such poverty and I was struck by the contrast between this poverty and the bustling, modern Lima we had experienced earlier in the week. Here people live in houses they have made for themselves, dogs roam the muddy streets which have become quite treacherous as winter has set in here in Lima, bringing with it the rain on these hilly communities.

Carlos did a very good job of explaining why we were visiting this community and what we were going to be doing there. The idea is for the interns to undertake a development project whereby we will help this community to build a staircase later in July. This particular group of "vecinos" live in houses which are scattered down a very steep hill and they have no staircases by which to access their properties. As we witnessed on the day, they are remarkably skilled at scaling the hill without falling, but this will become much more difficult to them as the damp winter makes the path very muddy and dangerous.

jesusobreroThe site of the future staircase

Carlos had already engaged with the community and they have rallied together a group who will help with the construction project. They have cleared the pathway and stones so that construction can begin without any problems. On this day we were visiting the community to make sure everything was in order and that they had established a group to help out. We explained how the project would function and together we came up with the idea of having "almuerzo" (lunch) all together every day to ensure a united team effort during the project.

The people here struck me as a very happy and clever bunch. They worked very well together under the leadership of the matriarchs of the community and I felt a true sense of community amongst them. They were keen to interact with us and to show us around.

We met the local baker and his wife. He bakes bread in a little stone oven on their plot of land and then his wife visits the other houses in the community selling their bread products. This is how they make their living, yet I was struck by their generosity as they shared their bread with us. After speaking with them about what they do for their community and tasting their delicious bread, Carlos was so impressed he said we might be able to help them out with a few essentials in the future!

I really enjoyed my first experience in the field with MEDLIFE. I was struck by the positive attitude, the sense of community and the generosity of the people there. I am really looking forward to building the staircase with them, it is a really exciting project for this community and their enthusiasm is infectious.

The staircase in Jesus Obrero is now almost complete! Stay tuned for more updates. 

University of Sydney Main Quadrangle

We're very excited to welcome the brand new chapter at the University of Sydney to the MEDLIFE family! After completing a monthlong internship with MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru, USYD senior Anna Laming decided to spread the word on her campus. Thanks to Anna's hard work this semester, this young chapter now has an executive board in place, and is currently in the process of planning upcoming meetings, fundraisers and community service activities.

usydAnna with the chapter's president and vice presidentStudent leaders at the University of Sydney said the new student group meets a growing area of interest on campus. "I knew I wanted to get more involved on campus, but I wanted to guide help to areas most in need," says chapter vice president Marco Leung. "MEDLIFE has mirrored my thoughts exactly. Not only does it have an established network that is growing very quickly at university campuses around the globe, but it also has a structured and friendly operations team to achieve its goals."

Students across Australia now have the chance to volunteer with MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics in South America, plus our future locations in India and Tanzania. For now, the Sydney chapter is focusing on raising awareness at their university and others in Australia in order to grow a national MEDLIFE network. We look forward to working with them!

April 8, 2013 1:59 pm

Intern Update: Mauricio

As a student at Florida State University, Mauricio Parra-Ferro founded a MEDLIFE chapter at his school and spent a summer interning in Lima, Peru. Even after graduation, he remains involved with MEDLIFE's work, and came back to Lima for a week this March to help out at a Mobile Clinic. Now back in the States working as a biology teacher for underserved middle and high school students and preparing to go to medical school, he took some time to reflect on his visit with us.

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My involvement with the MEDLIFE Florida State University chapter has made it very near and dear to me, and seeing how much the chapter's expanded this past year makes me both amazed and extremely proud. With its 47 students, FSU comprised approximately 80% of the March 11-15th Lima Mobile Clinic. However, it was the combined effort from all of the universities which made the clinics and development project so successful.

Throughout the week, I spoke with several of the students to discuss their opinions on global health, the most memorable experiences, and what they hoped to get out of the trip. I was very pleased upon hearing the responses. Everyone seemed to understand the importance and necessity of real sustainability, and they appreciated how MEDLIFE always aims to create this through improvement of the local infrastructure, and through consistent patient follow-up. Moreover, rather than only focusing on their own experiences, they would often talk about the patients they saw in the various stations, the communities they visited, their admiration and respect for the MEDLIFE staff, and the reoccuring issues they were exposed to.

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While several people came prepared, having learned various Spanish phrases and studied the Peruvian culture, I feel confident that everyone managed to leave with an altered perspective on life. The educational and eye-opening experiences which MEDLIFE provides gives participants the opportunity to expand their knowledge and subsequently be better prepared to serve others in the future, especially those who live in areas of extreme poverty.

In conclusion, my time helping run the clinics was everything that I hoped it would be and more. It was extremely refreshing to visit and work with the old MEDLIFE staff, people whom I consider family, and I loved meeting and getting to know the new members of the team. I sincerely appreciate having had the opportunity to be welcomed back to the communities to interact with residents, and help make even the slightest bit of impact on their lives. I have come to realize that throughout all of my volunteer efforts, especially the ones through MEDLIFE, while giving back to those who need it the most is undoubtably a rewarding feeling, it will always leave you feeling like you want to come back and do even more.

April 3, 2013 10:43 am

Meet the Interns: Nandini

Nandini Razdan, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, joins us in Lima, Peru for an internship this month! Learn more about Nandini and how she got involved with MEDLIFE in the Q&A below: 

meetnandini1Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I graduated from the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!) in Spring 2012 with a degree in Biology and a minor degree in Spanish. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia in good 'ol Wilmington, Delaware. My passions include going out with friends, watching political and social documentaries, eating pizza every day and all day, and dancing. Dancing was a huge part of my collegiate life, as I danced on two different South Asian/Indian dance teams. I aspire to become a bilingual primary care physician working in underserved areas in the States, as well as hopefully becoming involved in global humanitarian work.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

In Winter 2011, I volunteered in a MEDLIFE mobile clinic in Cusco, Peru. I initially signed up for the clinic because I felt that humanitarian aid was something I wanted to become involved with as a future doctor, so I wanted to get a taste of what it actually required. My experience there was absolutely unforgettable. Being able to actually work hands on with patients in a way that you usually can't in the States was a treat, and being able to help intervene in the health of 751 patients in one week was a true gift.

Why did you decide to become an intern?

I applied to be an intern for MEDLIFE because I felt that as a clinic volunteer, I had only scratched the surface for the amount of impact I personally wanted to make on the poor communities and how much I wanted to learn about global health. What stood out to me the most as a clinic volunteer were the reasons that many of the health problems existed and how preventable they were. In Obstetrics, it was shocking to see case after case of pap smears potentially positive for cervical cancer. The high levels of cervical cancer in Latin America are partially attributed to the lack of women's health education, but also ignorance of consequences of promiscuity in relationships. While assisting the doctors, I saw that common gastrointestinal issues were a result of unclean drinking water. Additionally, many patients' painful headaches were often associated with poor dental hygiene. Preventative health education is currently being highlighted in the United States healthcare system, so I think it is important for pre-health professionals to become exposed to that aspect of healthcare. Two things that stood out to me about MEDLIFE were the health education presentations and materials that were handed out during the clinics, and also patient follow-up when the clinic was over. As an intern, I wanted to be involved in researching some of the relevant health problems and hopefully helping to present these to the communities. Also, I wanted to see what happens behind the scenes once the clinic weeks are over through patient-follow up.

What was your first impression of Lima?

Coming back to Lima was like falling in love with South America all over again after having previously travelled to Chile, and Lima and Cusco in Peru. I landed in Lima around midnight and woke up the next morning at 6 am on a summer day (escaping the winter in the USA) to the sound of chirping exotic birds and a fresh glass of juice, and pleasant weather. I was immediately immersed into helping with the clinic. The bus driver blasted salsa and reggaeton music during the commute to the clinic, which was even more effective than a morning coffee. The best thing about Peru in general is that the people here are extremely friendly. The friends that I had made before welcomed me back with open arms, and the new friends I have made both in MEDLIFE and otherwise have made my stay so far amazing.

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Tell us an anecdote about your experience with MEDLIFE so far.

I've only been in Peru for a few days now, but every minute still has given me an opportunity to learn something new and to gain appreciation. The clinics in Lima are set up in the "pueblos jovenes," which are densely populated communities built on the outskirts of the city in the hills. Peruvians from rural areas migrate here to take advantage of the opportunities of the city. The final day of last week's clinic, the community whom MEDLIFE volunteers built a staircase for held a small party for us to show their appreciation. The volunteers played a game of soccer with the community on their hand built field which they had toiled for 5 years carving out of the dusty mountain. The community members were very hospitable, offering us snacks and drinks, even though they themselves had to work very hard to afford these things. This experience reminded me of how hard those within limited means work in order to be able to afford the things that we take for granted, yet they are the people with the most generous of hearts. The people were proud of their dusty mountainside soccer field with boulders for stadium seats and they were happy to offer the American volunteers humble snacks of Inka cola and soda crackers.

What do you look forward to about your internship?

I am looking forward to assisting doctors and nurses during patient follow-up because each medical case fascinates me and I appreciate that MEDLIFE takes the time to make sure that the patients get care outside of the clinic. Also, I am looking forward to being involved in preventative health education. Hopefully my experiences will help shape my medical journey to becoming a public-serving physician and hopefully MEDLIFE's audience will gain more perspective on the worldwide issues and be motivated to become involved.

October 17, 2012 9:50 am

Ecuador Intern Journal: Pedro

MEDLIFE Ecuador Intern Pedro Gonzalez writes about his relationship with a special patient in Riobamba:

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I have experienced a lot of meaningful events during my stay here in Ecuador. I have helped follow-up with a lot of patients and worked on multiple community development projects. None of them has had a bigger impact on me than the day I met Leslie Salambay.

Leslie is a one-year-old girl who lives in the community of Calancha in Ecuador. She had the misfortune of being born with her right ear completely sealed and is currently at risk of losing her sense of hearing if it goes untreated. I met this adorable girl one day at the MEDLIFE Ecuador office in Riobamba. I heard her laughing from the other room and had to came out to meet her. She is a ball full of joy -- as soon as she saw me, she wanted to play with me and I ended up taking many pictures with her.

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I asked Martha, our director in Ecuador, if I could be present during her whole treatment processs and she gave me the OK. Since then, I have been with Leslie during all of her appointments. It has not been an easy ride. Some of the tests needed for Leslie's treatment have been postponed because the staff in the hospital have not been careful enough to schedule a correct time for her; mistakes like this happen at public hospitals all the time. It's frustrating when you want to help someone but it's made difficult by poor administration of practices. As always, I am a positive person and try to get the best from each experience. I have used this time to bond more with Leslie and her family, and enjoy her laugh.

Leslie is always accompanied by her mother on these visits. One thing that I value about Leslie's mother is how caring she is for her child. She is always there and really attentive towards her daughter. It reminds me a little bit of my mother. I don't want the smile of this little girl to ever disappear. I know that I will keep working hard to make sure Leslie receives all of her treatments so she can live a normal and happy life.

October 10, 2012 8:59 am

Meet the Interns: Pedro

Recent graduate of Iowa State Unviersity, Pedro Jose Gonzalez is our newest intern at MEDLIFE Ecuador in Riobamba. He's completed one out of the six months he'll be working with us, and so far he's helped build sanitation projects in rural communities, followed-up with patients and helped get things in order for future Mobile Clinics. Get to know more about the Puerto Rican native and what he's gained from his experience so far:

MeetPedroTell us a bit about yourself:

My name is Pedro but everyone calls me PJ. I'm 23 years old and I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Chemistry. I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moved to the states two years ago when I transferred from the University of Puerto Rico.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

I started getting involved with MEDLIFE back at ISU. Last year, the  chapter president introduced me to it and asked me to join their cause -- I'm glad I did!

What was your first impression of Riobamba? 

I was surprised at how similar Riobamba is to Puerto Rico. It hasn't been difficult getting adjusted. One thing that shocked me was the poverty in the communities surrounding Riobamba. I was never exposed to such a thing. It's sad to see how some can't even manage to pay for a piece of bread that's less than 50 cents and how their health is deteriorating. People in these communities are not familiar with the health care system in Ecuador and suffer under the worst conditions. Even though it was a depressing scenario, I'm delighted by their humility and ability to keep a smile on their faces. They've taught me to value the small things in life.

What do you like most about being an intern? 

Everyday is different -- you never know what you will face. Also, I like that my job is not limited to one specific task or environment. I can work in the office or accompany a patient to the hospital or visit rural communities. Working at schools is really inspiring because the kids love to see you and interact with you. The MEDLIFE staff in Ecuador is simply AMAZING; there is no other word to describe them. They know how to work together as a team to get the best results and most important they make me feel at home.

Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

Something that has stuck in my mind is the time I went to visit an old MEDLIFE patient named Darwin for an interview. When MEDLIFE was first established, he was their first patient to receive a life-saving heart surgery. It was fulfilling watching this kid have a normal life thanks to this organization; and he was so openly grateful. He even kept the teddy bear that Co-founder of MEDLIFE Juan Camilo Vanegas brought him five years ago. He carried the bear with him during the whole interview; he was so eager to show it to us and how much it meant to him. That's when I truly realized how important these types of organizations are in countries like Ecuador.

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How do you think the internship will help you with your future plans / career?

I have always thought that in order to be a successful and compassionate doctor, one should have a better view of the world and understand not only the problems affecting their countries but also countries around the world. MEDLIFE has showed me the important things in life and how I can work to better society. Thanks to this organization, I consider myself a more wordly person with a better perspective of current health problems.

 

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