Karisa, pre-med student

My Pre-med experience in Mexico with PMCSP

Karisa Klemm

            ATTENTION to all Pre-med students who think that they will not have time to study abroad: I am Pre-med and recently returned from spending the entire academic year studying abroad in Mexico.  The following piece is a reflection of how I was able to pursue my Pre-med interests while studying abroad and of how important it is for Pre-med students to study abroad in Mexico.   

 My name is Karisa Klemm and I am currently (Fall 2011) a Rising Senior at Smith College.  I have a Spanish Major, a Pre-med Concentration, and am a Candidate for the Five-College Certificate in Culture, Health, and Science.  I spent the past academic year, 2010-2011, in the beautiful city of Puebla, Mexico with the Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla (PMCSP).  I know many Pre-med students think that it is not possible to even go away for a semester, let alone the entire year, but I am living proof that it is possible.  During my first and second years at Smith, I completed many of the Pre-med requirements and also fulfilled enough Spanish Language courses to study in a Spanish-speaking country.  It is important to have a plan of when you will fulfill all of your Pre-med   requirements while planning to study abroad. 

 During my academic year in Puebla with PMCSP, I was able to partake in a number of different activities related to my Pre-med concentration:

 Take science classes: At the public university in Puebla, the Benemérita Universidad Autonóma de Puebla (BUAP), PMCSP students can take classes in the sciences such as Biology and Immunology.  There is also a new and developing relationship with the BUAP Medical School and it is possible to take classes in Anatomy and other human sciences there. 

 Volunteer at public women’s hospital:  While in Puebla, I was able to volunteer over one hundred hours at the Hospital de la Mujer in Puebla.  This is the state’s specialty women’s hospital.  There, I volunteered weekly as a doula-in-training in the Labor and Delivery Ward.  I provided laboring and birthing women with physical, emotional, and educational support.  I also gave a two-month course on the physiology of birth and on how to provide physical and emotional support to laboring and birthing women to other hospital volunteers (Pictures 1 and 2).

 Go on Pre-med excursions:  In the Fall of 2010, I was invited to attend a four-day excursion of a Pre-med Program from Notre Dame University.  This excursion went to rural and mountainous regions of the state of Puebla to better understand healthcare in a low resource setting and the Aztec traditional medicine system.  We observed classes at a nursing school in a rural village called Zacapoaxtla and were given a thorough tour of the Traditional Medicine Hospital in Cuetzalan.  At the hospital, we were able to hold in-depth discussions with the traditional midwives from the area.          

 Attend Medical Conferences: I attended two medical conferences during my time with PMCSP.  One was on the relationship between Mexican culture, death, and medicine.  The other conference was on innovative research and techniques in the field of gastrointestinal medicine. 

 Write Research Article and present findings at Medical Anthropology Conference: I was offered the opportunity to write a comparative research article on the anthropology of birth in Mexico and in Bangladesh for a well-known academic journal and present the findings at the National Institute on Anthropology and History’s Medical Anthropology Conference in October 2011. 

 Knit baby hats: The PMCSP funded a project for students in the program and their host mothers to knit baby hats to donate to the Hospital de la Mujer.  About twenty hats were made and donated to newborn babies at the Hospital de la Mujer (Pictures 3 and 4).

 It is clear that I was able to further and enrich my Pre-med concentration while in Mexico.  These are experiences that I would not have been able to have at Smith College. 

 I would like to stress the importance of Pre-med students studying in Mexico with PMCSP, because as we know, there are programs in other Spanish-speaking countries, such as Spain.  However, your experiences in Mexico will help you more when you become a doctor in the United States.  Why? Many of the patients you will be serving will be from Mexico.  In 2005, people of Mexican origin made up 10% of the United States population (28.1 million people) and this percentage continues to rise.  Your experiences in Mexico will help you learn the Mexican dialect of Spanish and Mexican culture and geography, all of which will help you as you interact with patients in the US.  If you are not convinced, in the few months that I have been back in the US (Boston), I have met a countless number of Mexicans, who are all thrilled once they find out that I spent time in their beautiful country and know Mexican slang, traditions, and regions.

 If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at karklemm@gmail.com or call me at 717-695-1845 to further discuss my past experiences and your future opportunities as a Pre-med student in Mexico.