Danielle Berlin

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Washington & Jefferson College

Heinz Programming Area:
Children, Youth, and Families
International Experience Summary:

Danielle Berlin spent four weeks of her summer studying medical Spanish, reproductive health, and the health care system in Quito, Ecuador.  During her time in Ecuador, Danielle worked in three different hospitals:  La Maternidad Isidro Ayora, El Hospital Carlos Andrade Marin IESS, and El Hospital Militar.  She assisted doctors in the obstetrics/gynecology wards and was able to observe all aspects of female health care, including deliveries, Cesarean sections, DNCs, tubal ligations, vaginal mesh implants, laparoscopies, colposcopies, pap smears, and patient consults.  She learned medical terminology (in English and Spanish) and skills such as taking blood pressure, suturing, and determining the week of pregnancy simply by feeling the stomach.  Danielle also was able to witness the stark differences in the quality of care given based on economic status by having the opportunity to shadow in a public hospital, a social security hospital, and a military hospital.  Further, she was able to explore the effects that the machismo and Catholic cultures have had on a woman’s ability to ask for and receive reproductive health care, especially in relation to contraception.  She was able to interact with patients at a variety of ages – from women in their early teens to patients in their sixties, which also taught her how a person’s health needs change over their lifetime.  The conversations she had with the patients and her observations of doctor patient relationships illuminated the importance of treating the person, not just the illness.  Danielle also spent time taking Spanish classes and engaging in cultural activities (such as learning the traditional card game cuarenta) with the Amazing Andes Spanish School.  In her free time, Danielle explored the city of Quito and spent time with her host mom, Magui, who taught her a great deal about Ecuadorian culture and politics over the dinner table.  On the weekends, Danielle had the opportunity to travel to other cities in Ecuador where was able to experience the jungle, the coast, and the mountains, and even try the Ecuadorian specialty, cuy (guinea pig).  Between her time at the hospitals, at home, and travelling, Danielle’s language skills, interpersonal skills, and appreciation for both Ecuadorian and American culture all increased tremendously.  She gained a greater understanding of global health and was inspired to go into osteopathic medicine, specializing in obstetrics.  

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Perspectives on Global Health: Medicine in Latin America

During my time in Ecuador, I experienced the stark inequalities in the quality of healthcare given to people of different social classes.  I realized how little my fellow pre-health students and I knew about the realities of healthcare in different parts of the world.  This impacted me a great deal, and I wanted to find a way to share what I had learned with other students at W&J.  My CEE, entitled Perspectives on Global Health: Medicine in Latin America, was designed to enlighten students interested in medical professions on the problems faced by developing countries in providing adequate medical care to lower class citizens.  The CEE consisted of a panel of three healthcare professionals: an OB/GYN with experience in Haiti, Guyana, and Peru, and orthopedic surgeon who had done extensive work in Italy, and a school nurse who had recently completed her first international experience in medicine.  I facilitated the panel discussion by asking questions about their personal experiences, as well their insights into possible causes and solutions.  There was also time allotted for the audience to ask their own questions.  The panelists offered students a great deal of information, as well as resources to help illustrate the health problems faced by so many lower class citizens.  The project helped to show students interested in medicine the problems in healthcare that exist throughout the world, as well as to think about medicine in terms of more than just their future careers.  Additionally, they were shown ways that they can help to make a difference, both as students and as future medical professionals.  Many expressed interest in having more discussions on this topic and in doing medical mission trips in the future.  Additionally, this CEE opened up many more opportunities for the students to interact with healthcare professionals and learn how they can make an impact on global healthcare.