Surgicorps International
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Amelia Hare

Major: Immunology and Infectious Disease & Spanish 
Hometown: Beaver, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about this experience through a family friend who is a surgeon that regularly serves on the Guatemala trip. It was more luck and coincidence than anything else. Of course, I still had to apply to the program and take initiative on my own, but it was through Dr. Oleck that I learned about Surgicorps in the first place and it also helped that she put a good word in for me so that I could be selected for the trip. The application is pretty competitive for non-medical volunteers (anyone without some type of medical certification). As advice to other students, I would recommend always being open to interact with people in your field of interest and never hesitating to express your passion and interest to them. If I had not brought up my interest in medicine and my knowledge of Spanish to Dr. Oleck, odds are that she would have never thought to tell me about this program.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I served as a translator for a team of 35 medical and non-medical volunteers at a charity hospital in Antigua, Guatemala. My role was to communicate between my English-speaking Surgicorps team members and the Guatemalan hospital staff and patients. There really wasn't a second of the trip where I was off duty. In the hospital, I translated for just about every imaginable scenario. I comforted crying children and mothers, I relayed pre- and postoperative instructions to patients and their families, I held patients' hands as they went under anesthesia and assured them that they were in good hands. I also filled out medical charts and translated records from English to Spanish, and towards the end of the trip, the director of the hospital had pretty much adopted me as her personal translator since her English was not strong enough to convey her administrative needs to our team. I tried my hardest to be available to every member of the team and to do whatever I could to help. Every second was challenging, but also so unexplainably rewarding. The end of the trip culminated in me being chosen to receive an annual award presented by the program director to the team member who most exemplifies "kindness, compassion, humility, and a willingness to help wherever needed".

Every second was challenging, but also so unexplainably rewarding.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Academically, this trip reaffirmed that I am on the correct course of study to pursue my dream career. As a double major in both Spanish and Immunology and Infectious Disease, this trip perfectly unified my two greatest passions: the Spanish language and medicine. Thanks to my scientific background, I was able to recognize key anatomical structures while observing surgeries, calculate medication doses with the anesthesia team, monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and other key vital signs in post-op, and gain a deeper understanding of how all the systems of the body work together. Furthermore, my Spanish education allowed me to successfully fulfill my role as an interpreter.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

This trip has truly shown me what I want to do with the rest of my life. Now that I know my two passions can be unified so harmoniously, I am that much more motivated to succeed and pursue my path towards becoming a doctor. My dream is to work with underserved, Spanish-speaking populations, both domestically and abroad. Here in the U.S., many Spanish-speaking immigrants are restricted from receiving adequate medical care due to a language barrier between them and local healthcare providers. Furthermore, for undocumented immigrants, there is an additional barrier: a fear of seeking medical care even for serious illnesses due to the threat of being deported. As a physician, I hope to serve these populations and help to bridge the gap caused by language and legal status. I believe that every human being, regardless of nationality, socioeconomic status, or language should have reliable and adequate access to healthcare, and I intend to do everything I can to provide it to those in need. I also hope to extend my reach to Latin America. In the future, once I am financially stable enough to do so, I hope to move to Paraguay and work with local organizations to improve access to healthcare in rural areas. Eventually, I want to start an organization to build clinics in areas that lack them. My overall end goal is to extend access to healthcare to as many people as I can, surmounting the linguistic, socioeconomic, and geographical barriers that keep people from getting the care they need and deserve.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes. More specifically, I would recommend this experience to liberal arts majors who also have an interest or additional major in the sciences. Working as a medical translator requires specific knowledge of medical terminology that someone without a background in medicine might not be familiar with. Additionally, anyone who applies for this experience cannot be squeamish. I had to stand by a patient's side during dressing changes, be present for obstetric examinations, and converse with patients who were awake while receiving major abdominal surgery. Therefore, it is extremely important that those interested in applying are comfortable in a hospital setting and can keep calm and collected during uncomfortable situations.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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