Guatemala is a very diverse country; it is considered pluricultural, multiethnic, and multilingual. I grew up in Guatemala City and was raised in a very culturally aware family (my mother is a social scientist and my father is a public health specialist). In medical school, I took medical anthropology and learned of the importance of understanding local culture (the social behavior and norms in human societies) when treating patients. I did not know some of the concepts I learned in class would be so important in my personal life and career ahead. I took this class before and while doing a three-month community medicine rotation in one of Guatemala’s municipalities, San Juan Sacatepéquez. In this community, that is a 45-minute drive away from Guatemala City, we cared predominantly for patients of Mayan descent. In class, we learned about the Kakchiquel ethnic group, their culture and plural health system. We explored topics related to cultural change, cultural relativism, ethnomedicine, culture shock and ethnocentrism.
By Ekaterine Piccola Training Program Liaison, Mount Sinai Health System
I first planted my tired feet on US soil in August, 2003. After 12 hours in the air, when I breathed in the humid and intriguingly unfamiliar air outside of Washington Dulles International Airport, I knew that I was in for an adventure of a lifetime. My country, Georgia, was far behind me.
I started out as a new J-1 exchange student at New York University (NYU) in September, 2003. I experienced a multitude of emotions – I simultaneously felt happy, privileged, overwhelmed, and anxious. I realized that I was on my own and for the first time, I had only myself to rely on. The first few weeks were a whirlwind as I was eagerly trying to find a place to live in New York City, navigate through the subway system (mainly figuring out the difference between uptown or downtown, and trying to hear announcements against the noise of a rapidly passing express train), register for all the correct classes for my graduate program, and comply with the J-1 visa requirements. Along the way, I made some new friends who are now friends for life. Also, the support I received from the international office was crucial to my survival and future success.
A beautiful Floridian morning is peeping through my window, when sunlight seems to be at her cheerful best, before it resigns to the daily routine. It makes a glittering appearance every day, warming up the beaches and boats, for the rain and the famous Orlando lightning would be due by noon. The shades of weather shall favor me today, as I reflect on a delightful journey, celebrating a lovely concoction of flavors.
It is interesting how we change shoe sizes. The leap into a second year resident’s shoes has been remarkable. As a PGY-2 in internal medicine at Florida hospital Orlando, I must admit that the second year of residency has been the best of both worlds so far. The worlds I refer to are two amazing phases of learning medicine. The first part is the relentless responsibility to learn at every step, and the second is sharing the knowledge and learning through supervision. It is challenging, yet very enjoyable, to extend my abilities and further the skills learned in the first year, to apply and practice medicine with a new sense of maturity. Expectations are higher, and it is the time for me to be prepared for added responsibility. It is time to make decisions for the team, be the second in command after the attending physician, and guide, supervise and organize with the interns.
Having completed a residency in otolaryngology in Quebec City, Canada, I was ready for my next journey. But where would I go? Knowing I earned a position as an associate professor in one of the top pediatric hospital in Canada, Ste-Justine in Montreal, I had to find the perfect fellowship to learn from the best and bring back this knowledge with me. Who knew this journey would lead me in Cincinnati, Ohio.
I had the honor to complete a 2-year fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical. This hospital is not only the 2nd highest ranked pediatric hospital in the United States, but is the worldwide leader in performing pediatric airway reconstructions, including procedures involving the area from the top of the voice box to the trachea.
By Katie Powell Exchange Visitor Cultural and Educational Affairs Program Manager, ECFMG
It was a beautiful fall day, 55 degrees and sunny, in our nation’s “Big Apple.” The sound of spectators and volunteers cheering rose from the sidewalks as more than 50,000 runners persevered along the city streets. It was a perfect setting to introduce exchange visitor physicians to the New York City (NYC) Marathon, an American tradition 48 years strong. We were gathered for a day of volunteerism and cross-cultural sharing with the aim of fostering international understanding in line with the spirit and intent of the J-1 visa program we represent.
ECFMG serves as the sole sponsor for nearly 11,000 foreign national physicians participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor (J-1 Visa) Program to train in U.S. programs of graduate medical education. Each year, the U.S. Department of State (DoS) reaches out to program sponsors to plan an exchange-visitor volunteering event at the NYC Marathon. The idea is to bring exchange visitors from all different sponsorship categories—of which there are scholars, trainees, physicians, and more—together for a cross-cultural activity. It also gives exchange visitors the opportunity to connect with each other and engage in an exciting volunteer event supporting marathon runners from around the world.