Volunteers Around the World: Dominican Republic Hospital Internship 2014 Student Perspective

August 18, 2014

By Elizabeth Carpenter

How could I possibly count the reasons this program is one of the best experiences I have had so far in my medical career?  I entered this program as a rising senior in engineering, pre-health, and in the midst of the application process for medical school.  I was looking for a medical program lasting a month or so in a Spanish-speaking country, but I got so much more from this internship.

Carol is the main leader of the program: she organizes transportation to the hospital, arranges housing, translates if necessary, etc.  Dr. Jorge Báez is a maxillofacial surgeon at Hospital Dario Contreras and leads the interns while in the hospital. Both Carol and Dr. Báez are amazinglykind, extremely knowledgeable, and have so much to teach!  Never during the program did I feel there was not a learning opportunity in front of me!

The hospital internship is an amazing way to practice your Spanish in a medical setting.  While Carol speaks wonderful English and we rarely spoke another language amongst ourselves in the apartment, the doctors at the hospital speak almost exclusively Spanish and you are definitely pushed in your language skills!  Numerous other outings to the beach, the colonial zone, and other towns in the Dominican Republic provide an excellent opportunity to speak conversationally.

This internship is above all a fantastic medical experience.  Dr. Báez begins teaching you at the beginning of the program how to suture and classify wounds, and you get firsthand experience suturing patients after triage.  We observed numerous surgeries, including femoral fractures, hip replacements, and artery repair; we even sat in on a class Dr. Báez was teaching to the year-one residents about facial structure!

As I completed my medical school applications during this program, I was able to reflect on how much I was learning and growing during my time in the Dominican Republic.  Though many patients enter the ER in critical condition and this program definitely requires physical and mental strength, I would highly recommend this program to anyone considering a future in medicine.

Elizabeth Carpenter is entering her fourth year at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is double majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Spanish, and hopes to attend medical school and become a physician. She volunteered with Volunteers Around the World’s Hospital Internship Program in the Dominican Republic in July 2014.