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.


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.



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.