Intern Journal: Daniel Masin

I look across the bustling city of Lima, Peru to the distant lights shining on the steep hillsides, which are crowded with small, tin-roof-covered houses.  The imagery of the green light from the novel The Great Gatsby and the faint sound of salsa music from a radio in a nearby house coalesce into a moment standing atop a hill in Pamplona Alta.


I distinctly remember my first visit to Pamplona Alta, one of the communities on the outskirts of Lima where thousands live in a reality of no formal property rights, no easy access to clean water or quality health care, and extremely few financial resources.  MEDLIFE was hosting a mobile clinic, and I had the opportunity to observe a physician that day.  I noted the differences in his communication style compared to the physicians I had shadowed prior.  It was clear that he invested extraordinarily in the wellbeing of each patient, making sure to explain his thought processes and detail preventative measures going forward.  There is always a tendency to rush through patients, but he was pleased to take the time to answer all the questions each patient had.  We may have stayed an hour or two later that day, but he realized that his time was a small price to pay for the health of another.  I have shadowed numerous physicians in the U.S. and abroad, and the genuine concern that he possessed for his patients stands out to this day.

This theme is reaffirmed and apparent each day I work as an intern.  Whether he or she is a community health promoter, director of MED Programs, Volunteer Affairs Coordinator, operations specialist, or fellow Volunteer Affairs intern, every person I have met who works with MEDLIFE is truly empowered to proactively make a difference.  Here at MEDLIFE, this means furthering the mission of partnering with communities to provide improved access to medicine, education, and community development to low-income families across the globe. 

The magic of MEDLIFE is in the organization’s ability to empower the individuals with which it interacts.  It is empowering students in MEDLIFE chapters across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico to organize mobile clinic trips and learn more about the root causes of the inequalities in health that exist.  It is empowering others to realize that their opinion matters and that they can make a difference, in their recognition that there are many people in this world that need organizations like MEDLIFE to keep working to help them.  By attending a community meeting last week, I learned that one of MEDLIFE’s greatest achievements is empowering the communities with which it works. 

385-2-Daniel-MasinTogether: A student volunteer working hand-in-hand with a child from this community

A community meeting is an essential meeting that occurs several times before beginning any work on a development project and before mobile clinic logistics are solidified.  The other interns and I, along with Sr. Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE’s Director of MED Programs in Peru, walked into a meeting where 50 to 60 community members had already gathered, some sitting and some standing, to listen to us speak about MEDLIFE.  

385-3-Daniel-MasinCommunity meeting on June 12th

We had come to outline a proposal regarding a partnership and staircase project with that particular community.  As with any MEDLIFE staircase project, we would provide the construction supplies if the community members agreed to work together and alongside us by preparing the site for several weeks before students arrived to cement and decorate the staircase. One must look closely at the consequences of this decision.  Imagine a (common) situation of subsistence living, where each day’s wage is solely used to purchase food for that person’s family for that day, a situation that is especially difficult for single parents.  By participating in the project work, individuals forgo their income for an entire day or two. 

385-4-Daniel-MasinEsteban and I in Tena, Ecuador

After Carlos spoke, he asked the community to explain why they wanted staircases.  Several men and women stood up and articulated that the steep hillsides were dangerous for the old, the sick, the pregnant, and the young.  Each person, without fail, mentioned that these projects were not for them; the projects were for the future wellbeing of the community. 

After successfully organizing one project in unison with MEDLIFE, the community and its leaders are better equipped to address other projects that will perpetuate the wellbeing of their community.

The selflessness clearly portrayed that night, and many other instances throughout my experiences as a MEDLIFE mobile clinic participant and intern, continue to empower me.  I am inspired to become a competent, empathetic, and effective physician based on my experiences with the people in Lima and Tena.  I have learned that each person, no matter his or her cultural, political, or socioeconomic background, has a fascinating life story to tell, and one must simply ask the right questions in many cases.


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.