G L O B A L H E A L T H – Many think of ‘mission trips’ or ‘medical outreach trips’ when they hear global health… but I just don’t love those terms. It makes it seem like you are going out and doing the world a favor. The reality is, no matter what stage in your career you are in, global health is all about learning and collaborating. As students, these trips are much more about understanding other healthcare systems rather than providing a service. You can still do a lot of good as a student! But I feel like we need a more collaborative term for this type of global health work. Something along the lines of working with local healthcare systems and figuring out how we can all help each other out to improve healthcare and access to it around the world.
This collaborative idea is what this blog post and CFHI is all about. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts on global health, you know that I stress the importance of sustainability and ethics. We could go on for hours talking about why long term solutions are essential in the fight to increase access to healthcare around the world. If you want to learn more about this, click here! But today, let me tell you about an AMAZING organization for students to get their foot in the door. The future of global health (and well, the world) is in the hands of students and young people. Thus it is up to us to make the most out of our education now and continue to educate ourselves throughout our careers.
Child Family Health International (CFHI)
I recently went to Córdoba, Argentina through Child Family Health International (CFHI). They are a non-profit global health education organization that focuses on teaching students the importance of sustainability and ethical practices in global health through hands on experiences throughout the world. They work hard to make these experiences impactful both for the student as well as the community that the student is learning in and devoting their time to. Students can absolutely lend a helping hand and be useful volunteering their time. The problem is when students have the attitude that they are going out to save the world on these short term trips. But CFHI puts a big emphasis on ‘letting the world change you’ instead.
One thing that sets CFHI apart from other programs is their emphasis on learning about healthcare systems and cultures of the places you are going. You take language courses and have phenomenal lectures taught by locals about the history, healthcare system, and culture (which in the case of Argentina… means wine tasting!). One top of that, you are placed in hospitals or clinics that are an integral part of that areas healthcare system; be it rural clinics or public hospitals. Depending on where you are at in school, you will be able to shadow or work. This makes it an excellent program for both pre-meds and medical students alike. Pre-meds will primarily shadow while 3rd and 4th year medical students can help out with histories, physical exams and procedures depending on their skill level.
Preparing for a Career in Global Health
Learning about different healthcare systems (both in the classroom and with hands on experience in the hospital) is invaluable in terms of the impact that it has on the future of global health. The goal is to increase access to healthcare worldwide and improve healthcare delivery. Thus, learning and experiencing different healthcare systems will help you with whatever work in global health that you decide to do. Be it simply devoting weeks of your time to clinics in developing countries or getting even more involved and helping find solutions to our worlds biggest challenges. I cannot praise CFHI enough for developing a program that influences future global health professionals to be open minded, respectful, and curious. For these are the people that are going to shape the future of global health.
My Personal Experience in Córdoba
I did the Hospital Medicine in Latin America (2 Week Intensive). This program is typically 4 weeks long, perfect for a 3rd or 4th year elective. However, they offered a 2 week version over winter break, and I am SO glad that I did it. You have the option of working in the public hospitals (which are free to everyone in Argentina) doing a variety of different specialties. I ended up doing internal medicine, emergency medicine, and surgery throughout my two weeks. I was in a relatively large city in Argentina called Córdoba, so it technically wasn’t rural medicine. However, the majority of the patient population in public hospitals are people living well below the poverty line and would otherwise not receive any healthcare. To read more about healthcare in Argentina, check out my blog post on it here.
If you do the 4 week version of this program, you also have the option of working in a rural clinic outside of Córdoba in addition to the public hospitals in the city. I was expecting to work in a more rural area before coming to Argentina, but I am so glad that I ended up working at the public hospitals in the city. These people were sick. They needed healthcare and would have died without the free public hospitals. It was also very cool being able to compare and contrast big hospitals in Argentina with the US hospitals.
Day to Day Schedule
In the mornings, you work in the hospital. This will be from around 7:00am – noon give or take a few, depending on how busy the hospital is. All throughout the morning you sip on yerba mate with your docs (oh how I miss this). After the hospital, you get a fairly extensive lunch break (or nap break) before Spanish classes from 4:00-7:00pm. Whether you are just starting out with Spanish or you are already fluent, you can learn a lot from these classes. You get placed in different classes depending on your fluency level. These classes were definitely a game changer for me.
After Spanish class, we had cultural class from 7:00-9:00pm. Honestly, I think these were the highlights of the trip for me. I could not believe how much I learned during those two hours in the evening every single day. We would have locals come in and teach us about the healthcare system, social security, the history of Argentina, wine, and so much more. After cultural class, you had a couple of hours before dinner… which starts at 11:00pm!
Preparations, Accommodations and Traveling
CFHI does an EXCELLENT job of preparing you for your trip ahead of time. They send out videos, journal articles, and packets full of information to help you prepare both culturally, medically, and mentally. You stay with a host family that provides 2 meals a day for you. CFHI will also arrange pickup from the airport and will take you on a tour through the city and to the hospital. They will show you how to use the buses and give you all sorts of tips and tricks for getting around. Every time I had a question, they would reply within minutes. You also get weekends off to travel around Argentina. I ended up going to Mendoza (a 10 hour bus-ride away).
All in all, I cannot recommend CFHI enough. They do an excellent job preparing you for global health work and immersing you in the culture.