April 20, 2015

David: Finding global health opportunities

Medical student working with patients in Peru

David Schrock, M4, recently returned from a clinical elective facilitated by Amazon Promise, a nonprofit organization that offers much-needed medical and dental care to remote populations living in the Upper Amazon Basin of Northeastern Peru.

Michigan med students participate in these programs with support provided by Global REACH. David plans to continue working in the developing world during his residency training in Family Medicine at the U-M Health System and after. Here he shares his experience in finding opportunities that matched his interests, and the resources that helped him pursue them.

“Firsthand experience is the best way to learn, and the fourth year here gives you ample time to train abroad. I was looking for several characteristics when researching locations for rotations abroad: Spanish speaking population, heavy on tropical medicine exposure, and something more sustainable than just medical tourism.

“I knew that UMMS sends med students each year to Peru to work with the same organization that visits the same villages, and follows up on chronic conditions. I had heard very positive things about their experiences. When I found out that Global REACH would support it both financially and logistically, it was an easy decision to apply.

“During my rotation, we saw many illnesses that are unique to the developing world, and got to know the people we were serving well enough to start to understand how the roots of these illnesses take hold. I learned about the struggles of working in a country where the health care needs are infinite and the resources are much less so, forcing you to triage resources between patients who are very sick, and patients who are not so sick. Patients were so appreciative of the things we provided that we take for granted in the U.S.: children’s vitamins or a two-week supply of ibuprofen, for example. It gave me perspective on how truly lucky we are to practice medicine in such a resource-rich area.

“Working with a group like Amazon Promise showed me that it’s possible to serve underserved populations and still provide high quality care. They do this by helping fund any follow-up visits with local doctors, forming relationships with local leaders, and being diligent in keeping medical records so that every six months, the new team can look back and see what previous teams had treated. This will serve as a model as I look to continue this type of work in residency and beyond.

Before I came to Michigan, I knew that there were ample opportunities to do international rotations, but I wasn’t aware of the level of support that the Medical School administration would provide in order to make a trip like this possible.

David Schrock, U-M medical student

"Having been funded to take two trips during med school, it’s pretty clear to me that Michigan as an institution sees a lot of value in sending students abroad. If you’re looking for a school that will enable these types of learning experiences, Michigan is a great choice.”