Why were you interested in the Penn Global Nursing Fellowship opportunity?
I’ve had the desire to work with vulnerable, under-resourced populations in my heart ever since I decided to become a nurse in high school. I’ve always believed that access to quality health care is a human right, not a privilege. I knew this fellowship would open my eyes to the world of health care outside of the U.S. and leave me with a richer perspective and the ability to help those who need it most. This fellowship was particularly perfect for me because I wanted to give back to the country that my parents came from. Coincidentally, my cousin was a volunteer medical student at CerviCusco over a decade ago with his now wife, so life really came full circle for me with this experience.
How were your background and skills the right match for the needs of your host organization?
As an ICU Nurse Leader, partnerships and implementation were a huge part of my day-to-day work, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in NYC. Forming quick but strong connections, building trust, and detailed planning and organization were vital to my success as a Nurse Leader. These skills really translated to my work as a Global Health Fellow in Cusco. Additionally, because of my Peruvian heritage, I had a leg up on understanding Peruvian culture and having resources to call when I had questions about how things work in Peru or where to go to find answers.
How did your Fellowship experience meet, exceed, and/or fall short of your expectations?
The amount of autonomy I had during my Fellowship was very refreshing. I had a great amount of support from afar, but I was trusted to be able to navigate my new environment and complete the task at hand very independently. The COVID-19 pandemic did present some challenges, such as limiting the number of volunteers at CerviCusco. Usually, CerviCusco has anywhere from 20-30 volunteers (mostly health professionals or health profession students) working there at a time. Due to the pandemic, it was just the volunteer coordinator and me. We couldn’t do any Pap Smear campaigns in the remote villages like they usually do with such few human resources, and I suspect I would have been able to accomplish much more had there been more volunteers to collaborate with.
Do you feel you made an impact on the work of your host organization and, if yes, how?
Yes, I was able to implement a free open-source electronic medical record called OpenEMR for the Azul Wasi Orphanage, which they are planning to expand to the CerviCusco clinic. Now, when the kids are old enough to leave Azul Wasi and live on their own, they will have a copy of their medical records to refer to. I also raised enough money through the generosity of family and friends to help buy many necessary items for the kids, most notably 7 HP Chromebooks and a 5-filter water filtration system! School has been entirely virtual for the kids since March of 2020, but they did not have enough tablets and laptops to go around, making their educational experience challenging. They also did not have potable water, which is a huge public health issue in Peru.
Did you experience any personal and/or professional gains from this experience?
This experience forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to navigate foreign systems and environments. It made me realize how resourceful and enterprising I can be in unfamiliar territory. I am so grateful for that and excited to see how it can apply to my career back in the States.
Do you have any photos / videos from the experience you would like to share?
Do you have a favorite memory you would like to share?
Field Day at school was one of my fondest childhood memories so I decided to organize a Field Day for the kids when my friend was visiting. I divided them into 3 teams and was prepared with prizes for them. They played 11 fun, competitive games, such as the 3-legged race, a pie eating contest, dancing musical chairs, and chubby bunny (winner is the one who gets the most marshmallows in their mouth). It was 2 hours of nonstop laughter and smiles. I will always look back on that day fondly.
Is there an accomplishment that brought you particular pride?
Getting Azul Wasi access to clean water was what I was most proud of during my 3-month fellowship. Knowing that the kids can now drink from any tap at the orphanage brings me so much joy because of the major implications this has for their health and development. About 40% of children in their region have parasites and anemia. My hope is that having access to clean water will allow the kids to not be a part of that statistic.