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Student Spotlight: Kickstarting Medical School with a Health Internship in Belize

by Prabjot Kaur Batth | February 27th, 2012

As often as you hear pageant queens say they want world peace, you will hear pre-med students say they want to help the poor in the world with their medical degree. The truth is, only about five percent of pre-med students actually make it to medical school, let alone dedicate their time and money to the impoverished of this world.

For me, helping those in desperate need is something I am passionate about and not something I just say because it sounds appropriate. One of the toughest battles the poor of this world face is their extreme susceptibility to disease and malnutrition. When deciding to pursue a career in the field of medicine, I decided so because I knew this career would be the best fit to fulfill my flaming passion to make a positive change in this world.

There are not many days that I do not find myself thinking about how I want to use my knowledge and resources to make lasting changes in areas most affected by poverty, so it is only understandable that I was impatient to get my first taste of clinical work in rural areas. Through ProWorld, an organization that matches volunteers and interns with projects in developing countries, I found a health internship that allowed me to pursue my interest as quickly as possible.

I took part in ProWorld’s health internship in Belize because of the extensive work they do with diabetes outreach throughout the country and their placements in emergency rooms and triages of local hospitals. They also have a great philosophy of immersing their participants into the culture by placing them with great local host families. I took this opportunity to further my interest in healthcare and also survey professional life in an exotic area.

Professionally, through this experience, I learned what it really means to be a medical expert. I was able to work one-on-one with many kind doctors and nurses in the local community hospital and get direct patient interactions. I witnessed my first birth, assisted with suturing a patient, inserted a few IVs, changed surgical dressings, and many other procedures over my time in Belize. The most valuable experience for me was getting the chance to talk to so many different patients and ask what they struggle with when it comes to healthcare. I learned firsthand how poverty not only prevents people from eating properly and affording needed medication, but also causes an intense amount of stress that can be extremely harmful to the body.

I took part in a diabetes public health project with ProWorld where I educated hundreds of participants about proper nutrition, preventive diabetes practices, and screened for the deadly disease. I measured enough blood pressure and blood glucose levels for a lifetime, but I was glad to do it.  ProWorld also allowed me to add on a personal dental project I designed, where I promoted healthy dental habits and hand out donations from friends and dentists from home.

Although it is common knowledge that getting into medical school is extremely competitive and every applicant needs any edge they can get, I didn’t do this internship to spice up my application. This experience may look great to medical schools but this experience, for me, was a way to do three important things:  experience a new culture, further understand medicine and public health in rural areas, and most importantly, help my fellow citizens of the world. This internship did just that. This experience will give you as much as you want to get from it. If you spend your time talking to locals, being open to new experiences and not being afraid to assert yourself in the placements you are put in, you will be sure to find yourself changed in a very positive way.

Prabjot Kaur Batth is a Bio-Medical Physics student at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.  Upon graduation, she hopes to attend medical school to continue her passion for global healthcare.

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