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6th Aug

2014

NMA Scholarship – Xela, Guatemala – Dan Campbell

I undertook part of my elective at a Medical Clinic in Xela, Guatemala. This was partly funded by a generous scholarship from the Nepean Medical Association. I was interested in Guatemala for a few reasons. It gave me the opportunity to visit Central America, which I hadn’t done before. It also allowed me to continue to learn Spanish, and to experience medicine in a developing country and compare it to Australia, my other placement in Germany, and my experiences in the Northern Territory in a remote Aboriginal community. The clinic was a GP style clinic that serviced those in the local and regional communities who were unable to afford healthcare, a group that particularly included the Indigenous Mayan people. The clinic attracted me because it was run by local people, with the aim of servicing the local community, not by a large NGO. It also attracted me as it included cultural training around Mayan people and their medical beliefs, in addition to a number of community projects including a nutrition program for malnourished children in surrounding rural communities, a childcare centre, and a safe stove project. The cultural training was impressive, and gave me an invaluable insight into the Mayan culture, and their beliefs around medicine. I was also impressed with the local doctors knowledge of these practices, and their effects and side effects. It made me reflect on how little we know or incorporate traditional Aboriginal practices into our own medical knowledge. The nutrition program introduced me to the first time to chronically malnourished children, and demonstrated how widespread it can be in impoverished communities, and how to take some steps to tackle the problem. The childcare centre allowed me to practice paediatric medicine, and generally be a clown. The safe stove project arose from the problem of open fire pits within houses. In addition to being a fire hazard, for the house and the people in it, it also contributes to the large amounts of respiratory illness within the communities. The stoves reduce the fire hazard, and ensure the smoke that was filling the house now safely exits through the chimney. I would be lying if I said my placement was all about helping the local people. While I certainly felt that I helped out (although I could safely argue that, like most medical students in such a situation, my tourist dollars were more of a help than my efforts – which is not to say that I didn’t work hard), I also got to meet and make friends with many people, both from the local community and other international visitors. I also got to visit some amazing places, have some incredible adventures, and a whole bag full of stories to tell. I would thoroughly recommend visiting Guatemala to anyone.

Dan Campbell Dan Campbell

Student Scholarship Information

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