Medlife Volunteer Trip Reviews: An Interview with Elizabeth Shenk - MEDLIFE

Medlife Volunteer Trip Reviews: An Interview with Elizabeth Shenk

We had the privilege of recently connecting with one of our former interns, Elizabeth Shenk, about her time with MEDLIFE and how it has impacted her career trajectory. Elizabeth shared invaluable insights and a MEDLIFE volunteer trip reviews, reflecting on the lessons she learned and how she implements them into her current work. Check out this informative interview to discover what it’s like to work with MEDLIFE and how it can introduce you to a world of medicine and care that you may not otherwise get to experience.

Can you introduce yourself and briefly overview your journey with MEDLIFE?

I am Elizabeth (Biz) Shenk and I joined MEDLIFE as an intern in Lima, Peru in 2012 after graduating college. I enjoyed the work so much that I extended to stay as an Associate of Student Affairs until I returned to the U.S. in 2014 to start my BSN/MSN program and am now a nurse practitioner.

Reflecting on your time with MEDLIFE, how do you think your involvement has influenced your career path?

MEDLIFE played an integral role in leading me to choose a career in the medical field. I loved working overseas in a challenging environment that required flexibility and compassion.

What pivotal moments or experiences during your tenure with MEDLIFE do you believe have shaped your professional trajectory the most?

In addition to community initiatives, the projects for individual patients and families were incredibly rewarding and showed me the direct impact of MEDLIFE’s work. For example, we built a staircase outside the home of a patient suffering from breast cancer, and provided her with home furnishings and wound care. Seeing how the collective work of MEDLIFE staff, medical providers, and volunteers had a direct impact on her life led me to want to advance my education and career in the medical field.

medlife volunteer trip reviews

Can you share a specific achievement or project from your time with MEDLIFE that you feel has had a significant and lasting impact on your professional life?

In addition to the patients and community members we helped through mobile clinics and community projects, the  opportunity to speak Spanish regularly was hugely helpful in becoming nearly fluent in Spanish. My first job after finishing my BSN was in an ER in the south Bronx with a large Spanish speaking community. Speaking Spanish was a great advantage in communicating with my patients and streamlining their care.

In your opinion, how prevalent are physician burnout and mental health issues within the medical community, and what strategies are effective in addressing these challenges?

Burnout and mental health issues among the medical community are widely prevalent, especially in the inpatient setting where we see patients return repeatedly with uncontrolled chronic health issues. The first few years of my career I worked full time in the ICU, but transitioned to Locum Tenens contracts in 2021. Travel contracts allow me to set my own work schedule and take time off when I start to feel burnt out. It also led me to take an overseas contract in Baghdad, Iraq in more of an outpatient role, which was a nice reprieve from hospital work.

Do you believe that being part of MEDLIFE has helped you cope with or overcome any professional burnout or mental health challenges? If so, how?

Although I worked with MEDLIFE over a decade ago, I still reflect on my time in Peru working on the mobile clinics and the incredible impact we had on educating community members about common health issues and how to better care for themselves. Since leaving in 2014, I did return in 2018 to help with a Wilderness First Aid course for MEDLIFE staff, and was able to revisit some of the communities where we had completed projects, and this reminded me of what ignited my passion for medicine. Sometimes you need the reminder of what pushed you to start.

What advice would you give new MEDLIFE volunteers, interns, or chapter members as they begin their journey with the organization and navigate their roles?

I would say that time spent volunteering with organizations like MEDLIFE will have more of an impact that you might think. Looking back at my two years in Peru with MEDLIFE, I have so many wonderful memories that have had a lasting impact on my career path and passion for medicine. Volunteering and giving back not only helps others, but may help you even more.

Thank you Biz for your kind words and thoughtful insights on your career and time spent working with MEDLIFE. It is always incredible to watch our former interns and volunteers grow and thrive in their personal and professional lives. Keep up all the amazing work!

Check out some more MEDLIFE volunteer trip reviews on our blog.

To learn how you can get involved with MEDLIFE like Biz, fill out the interest form below, download our free brochure, or check out our upcoming Service Learning Trips!