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14 Robert WoodJohnson
here are multiple private and public hospitals in
Medellín, and we were initially assigned to rotate in the
Hospital General de Medellín. In this public hospital, we
spent three to four days each in surgery, OB/GYN, emer-
gency medicine, and internal medicine. In addition to
being immersed in the Spanish language, we learned about
the process of becoming a doctor in another country, and
we encountered a variety of attitudes among some toward
Americans. For example, we met doctors who teased us
about our Spanish abilities or completely ignored our
presence, but also doctors who invited us to personal
events such as World Cup celebrations or a Saturday at the
Museum of Antioquia to teach us about the political
works of art by Fernando Botero. This was eye-opening
in that it was a chance not just to
view changing perceptions between
Americans and Colombians, but also
to get a personal glimpse into parallels
between people living in other coun-
tries and the immigrant experience in
the United States.
The Clínica Infantil Santa Ana is a private, nonprofit
children's clinic that mainly serves the population of
southern Medellín. The treatments we learned about there
were for conditions related to malnutrition, such as
marasmus and kwashiorkor, as well as a variety of bacte-
rial and viral infections--especially pneumonia. It was
here that we were encouraged to take basic histories in
Spanish, perform pediatric physical examinations, and
present on rounds the patients we followed all week. We
also met a member of Colombia's indigenous population
and learned about the language, cultural, and socioeco-
nomic gaps that exist, which parallel what the three of us
were trying to overcome in our own country.
Our fourth and final week was spent at the Instituto
Colombiano de Medicina Tropical. This is a public health
clinic and research laboratory that serves the regions of
Chocó, Amazonas, and La Guajira. We met and inter-
viewed patients with a variety of diseases that we had
learned about in the classroom but never thought we
would actually encounter in our careers. This included
cases of leprosy, mucosal and cutaneous leishmaniasis,
and leptospirosis. The faculty there was very receptive to
us, and by this time our Spanish had improved dramati-
cally, thus allowing us to speak with everyone about
Medellín culture, religion, politics, and the World Cup.
In addition to our rotations, we took 20 hours of
Spanish lessons over the four weeks and graduated from
pronunciation and basic vocabulary to grammar and med-
ical conversation, and ultimately to conversation on
abstract concepts. In learning another language, there is
no substitute for doing it by immersion. When we