Saira Alimohamed, MD: Emory University Pediatrics PGY3

Guatemala: April 2013

 This April I had the good fortune to complete a one month rotation at the Hospital Nacional Pedro de Bethancourt in Antigua, Guatemala. The Hospital Nacional is an academic public hospital serving the colonial city of Antigua and its surrounding villages, where the majority of the patients are of indigenous Mayan ancestry. I worked alongside medical students and pediatric residents in both the Pediatric Emergency Department and the Pediatric Intensive Care and step-down units. The hospital is equipped with many essential but limited resources, and accepts all patients regardless of ability to pay.

 My experience working in the hospital setting was an eye opening one, with feelings ranging from triumph to devastation. I felt triumph after successfully resuscitating a child in hypovolemic shock. But I also felt devastated after seeing a child develop seizures who had been diagnosed with Strep Pneumoniae meningitis, as this is a disease which in the U.S. is easily vaccine preventable. Working alongside the residents and hearing their stories, I have learned that these victories and tragedies occur on a daily basis.

 The residents and medical students at Hospital Nacional are certainly everyday heroes. Working with both limited resources and nursing staff, they have become adept at placing PIVs, obtaining VBGs, ABGs, cath urine specimens and even placing central lines. These are things that we as residents and medical students in the U.S. have limited experience with. I am determined to strengthen my skill set; over the course of the month I certainly developed better clinical exam skills.

 I am also continually inspired by the strength of these families and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share in their care. I will continue to learn more about Guatemala and its unique challenges and strengths and someday, I hope to be instrumental in helping to improve access to essential medical equipment, vaccines and care. I am thankful for the support from the Ben Josephson Fund!