Last winter break, I had the privilege of going to Nicaragua along with about 40 other members of the UCLA student organization “Global Medical Training.” The purpose of GMT is to provide free medical care to the poorer neighborhoods of countries like Nicaragua and Dominican Republic, where there is a lack of sufficient medical care. GMT believes in “learning by doing,” and it gives the students an opportunity to experience what it is really like to become a physician by learning how to examine and diagnose patients. I had been preparing for the trip since the beginning of the fall quarter by attending all of the weekly meetings, where I was trained to do various tasks, such as taking blood pressure, using the stethoscope to listen to the heart and the lungs, and measuring heart rate. I also learned to perform multiple tests to diagnose patients with conditions, such as kidney failure, parasitic infection, urinary tract infection, STD, varicose veins, along with numerous other conditions commonly seen in the country of Nicaragua. Although I was given information about the common diseases and conditions before the trip, I learned the most when I got to the clinic site in the actual neighborhoods of the country. Listening and talking to the patients in person was an entirely different experience than just studying about them through PowerPoint slide presentations.
This trip to Nicaragua with GMT was an invaluable experience for me, because it gave me a perspective on global healthcare and an awareness of the need for proper and adequate medical care all over the world. Before, I had known very little of the issue of global healthcare and the living conditions of the people in the less developed countries. But going to this trip has informed me about the definite needs around the world and it has strengthened my desire to share my set of hands with those in need. I also found out that I really enjoy interacting with people, whether it be with the patients or with other doctors. Looking at the eyes of the patients, I saw that they had a full trust in my ability to help them. And having their trust inspired me to do my very best. The fact that I was capable of relieving these people from pain energized and motivated me all throughout the clinic. This trip reaffirmed my desire of becoming a medical doctor, and I now cannot see myself doing anything else but spending the rest of my life to serve others. I feel very lucky to have gone to this trip, and I want to thank my parents and GMT for giving me an opportunity to visit Nicaragua. It was truly a life-changing experience.