Mary Duke Biddle Scholar Reflection - Anurekha Gollapudi

The Mary Duke Biddle program allowed me to participate in the Cachamsi program in Riobamba, Ecuador. Participating in this program provided me with a variety of different opportunities that were important to my medical education and training. I knew that I would witness differences in both culture and medical practice, and I was eager to learn from these differences. Furthermore, being able to learn and practice my medical Spanish simultaneously was integral to my learning and understanding of these differences.

In Riobamba, I had the opportunity to work in both rural and urban healthcare settings. The rural setting in Cacha was particularly rich in getting to experience a patient population that I don't typically see at Stanford. In addition to the medical cases, this population also provided a great lesson in building strong relationships between healthcare workers and patients. I found that many elderly patients in this rural mountainous region were reluctant to seek healthcare. Some patients demonstrated mistrust and suspicion, and others were hesitant to take prescribed medications--instead giving them to their farm animals! Unfortunately, this led to delayed time to seeking care and other preventable medical complications.

Because of this, the healthcare workers in Cacha spent a large amount of time building trust and relationships with the local population. In Ecuador, graduating medical students are required to practice a year of rural medicine after completion of medical school. I had the opportunity to witness a young doctor, working in his rural year, establish close relationships with his patients, even though he desired to pursue a career in trauma surgery. During house calls, the physician would do his best to not only provide medical care, but also to improve the general health and well-being of his patients. I saw him help cut down a tree so that an elderly lady could rest from manual labor, as well as vigorously scrub a dirty water tank in order to provide a family with clean drinking water. The strong sense of community really struck me and upon returning to Stanford, this encouraged me to advocate for my patients in more than just the hospital setting. 

Advocacy for patients, particularly in pediatrics, has been important to me throughout my career, but it has not always been easy to integrate it into my daily practice. Sometimes it’s an extra few minutes at the end of a clinic visit, but other times it can elicit a longer conversation about other social factors that can be influencing a patient’s health. I hope to keep my experiences from my time abroad with me as I move forward in residency and continue to advocate for my patients.

Anurekha Gollapudi is a 2nd year peds resident at Stanford.