As soon as I submitted the Human Growth and Development exam, I ran home and happily stored my huge sequence packets and my collection of rainbow highlighters. School was over and I had survived my first year of medical school! I exchanged my tan trench coat for bright yellow flip-flops, my mangled green umbrella for stylish aviators, and officially started to pack my bags! I would be leaving Ann Arbor for 11 weeks. For my first and only summer while in medical school, I would travel to St. Martin, Mexico, and return home to Panama for a little fun and work. I was excited and eager for my travels to begin!
First stop – St. Martin.
Scuba diving was the highlight of my trip to this small Caribbean island. It was equally thrilling and terrifying to sit at the bottom of the ocean hearing only your rhythmic breathing and endless thoughts, like meditation taken to the next level! Thankfully, no sharks were spotted, and yes, tons of colorful fish. I loved every minute of it! Here are a few shots of me scuba diving and feeding a sea turtle. I hope to squeeze in some more diving time before I return to Ann Arbor!
Second stop – Panama.
A few months ago, I received an email from Global Reach (http://www.med.umich.edu/globalreach/) about sending students to Panama to help set up research and clinical opportunities for medical students. Since I grew up in Panama, I excitedly emailed back and listed all the ways I hoped to contribute to the project. A few weeks later, my ticket was bought and my Panama plans were in motion. I would be traveling home to see my family, plus help Michigan set up rotations and research opportunities. A large part of why Michigan stood out to me when I was applying to medical schools was its dedication to global health, so I was excited to be given the opportunity as a rising M2 to travel and assist in furthering Michigan’s collaboration with international institutions.
I’m now in Panama and enjoying every minute of it. Although I have important meetings and work scattered throughout my trip, I also get to take advantage of being home and all the luxuries associated with it, like waking up late (11 a.m.!!), adopting random summer TV shows (pretty little liars, anyone?), feasting on delicious homemade food (best pink pasta in the world), pampering myself with a trip to the salon, and meeting up with old friends. Life is good. Sadly, my time here in Panama is coming to a close. Tomorrow I will have another set of meetings with physicians and directors at one of the public hospitals here, and then a few days later I’ll be leaving.
Next stop – Mexico.
Early in the M1 year, I pursued a faculty-led global research project in Pachuca, Mexico offered through Global Reach. The project will evaluate a hypertension management program for low-income patients in rural Mexico. This will be my first time living in Mexico, so I’m incredibly excited! I’ll be living in Mineral del Monte, a small town in Hidalgo, until mid-August, then returning to AA just in time for the start of M2 year.
As my departure date nears, my parents may have just realized I’m going to be living in Mexico for two entire months! Concerns over safety get discussed with increasing frequency at the dinner table as CNN continuously dwells on the increasing border and drug violence. Apparently Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America, right up there with Venezuela, a fact my mom just discovered and reminds me of daily. I try and reassure my parents that the project I’m working with is taking every precaution to ensure our safety, including providing us with a driver and housing us in a tiny town of 12,000 people. Plus, I’ll have a cell phone with a Mexican SIM card, so I can be reached anytime. As dangerous as the country may be, I’m focusing on the fun of exploring Pachuca and Mineral del Monte. I’ll also be taking a weekend trip to the Riviera Maya for my dad’s birthday, plus a trip to Mexico City to meet up with a friend from high school. Other than that, I’ll be safely tucked away in my safe bubble of Mineral del Monte, nicknamed “Pueblo Mágico” or Magical Village.
I’m excited and eager for my Mexican adventure to begin! Will I get to eat tons of tasty tacos and quesadillas? Will I find cute Mexican souvenirs for my friends in AA? Will I manage to sneak in some diving while in the Riviera Maya? Will I get a little reminder of our Infectious Disease sequence with “Montezuma’s Revenge”? Will my parents finally turn off CNN and relax about me living in Mexico? Stay tuned! 🙂