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So much to learn, so little time!

June 29, 2012

The past week has been a period of intense class work and study! In seven weeks the students earn 6 hours of course credit, learn a little Spanish supported by daily conversational Spanish labs, and engage in shadowing at schools and hospitals as well as visit many locations of historical and cultural interest.  All this in a foreign country where they have to learn how to find food in “supermarcados” and cook it on a large gas range, negotiate small blue bags of laundry back and forth from the “lavadero” and jump on and off of crowded city buses quickly so that they don’t get left behind. (I wish I had a few pictures of the looks on some unnamed faces when the bus pulled away and they weren’t on it or off of it as planned!) It’s been a very full seven weeks!

The week started well with a trip out to Raquel’s house to worship with the house church that was meeting in her home. It’s about an hour ride outside of Montevideo and we took food to contribute to a potluck lunch with the church members. It was wonderful to be with Christians with whom we share so much even if our language isn’t one of the things we share…the love among the group is obvious. And since we all know and love Raquel it was a special treat to be able to visit in her home.

In front of Raquel’s house with some of the church members

After lunch we walked to the beach very near her home. The day was sunny and reasonably warm and it was a great day to walk along the beach…some took off their shoes and waded in the water…or drew pictures in the sand. Check out Avogadro’s number in the sand of the Montevideo “playa”!

Recognize this number?

The rest of this week we’ve studied and today we finished our formal class meetings, except for final exams, which will be next Monday and Tuesday. This has been a very interesting week to be completing a course on Global Healthcare. We’ve been talking about different systems of healthcare delivery and issues like an individual mandate, the role of insurance companies, whether provision of healthcare is a human right, priorities in the practice of medicine, and of course how culture affects how we approach all of these issues…and today an hour before our final meeting came the long awaited supreme court decision! It’s been remarkable to walk around Casa ACU and hear students in long discussions about how healthcare can and should be provided hours after class has ended. I have really enjoyed having students with a variety of interests be part of this study abroad group…the business major’s perspective is so different than the pre-med student’s and the SLT students are more involved in the education process and bring another viewpoint. I think we’ve really learned from one another!

Also, in addition to our regular shadowing activities we’ve made a few additional visits. The SLT students visited the Hospital de Ninos Perreira Rossel and the other pre-health students visited the only public medical school in Uruguay. Until 2006, it was the only medical school, until the opening of a small private medical school in northern Uruguay.

Our guides at the medical school were current medical students and we were visiting on mid-term day and this meant there was a lot of activity and noise all over the campus! Medical school is free in Uruguay (as is all university education). About 1200 students begin the program every year. There are no entrance requirements beyond the equivalent of high school graduation with plenty of coursework in the sciences. The high school science programs, however, are very demanding. Of the 1200 who begin medical school each year, only 400 will graduate within 7-9 years. The time frame varies because most students must work while attending school.

Much of the med school is located in a basement

We learned so much, but probably most remarkable is the level of involvement that the students have in governance of the medical school’s administration and even curriculum. A board of students, faculty, and alumni set the standards for all aspects of the medical school including such things as a recent request to the national government for a change in funding structure. This organization certainly gives the students a sense of ownership!

The anatomy lab wasn’t open, but we could see cadavers under sheets on tables. Each cadaver is used by about 25 medical students.

ACU students with our student hosts in the large lecture hall at the med school.

The students love their school, but are concerned about underfunding that makes it difficult to keep the medical school properties well maintained. Still, with about 400 doctors per 100,000 residents, Uruguay has a relatively high number of physicians per capita. (The US stat is about 265 doctors per 100,000 residents.)

This weekend is “free travel” weekend and we’re all getting a few days to explore. We have no classes tomorrow and many are leaving for the weekend. It’ll be a weekend of rest and one last chance to see a few things in the country that has been our temporary home for most of the summer. We look forward to coming home, but will miss the warm greeting and the many kisses on the cheek that have become part of our habit while in Uruguay. Reminds us that maybe we should slow down just a little bit!


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