There is no real way, in English or in Spanish, for me to describe my fantastic summer in León, Nicaragua. I am a second year medical student at the University of Connecticut, and I spent 8 weeks doing my own community research project in Nicaragua with the support of FNE International. I was working with the FNEI and Richmond Global Health Alliance (RGHA) program “Salud Para Todos Los Niños”, SPTLN, which aims to provide community health clinics and follow up to children with chronic or complex medical needs in the Chacraseca and León communities. My specific project was to collect baseline data for the program through interviews with the families of the children enrolled in the SPTLN program. Specifically, I was looking for descriptive data on the enrolled population, as well as collecting information on barriers to healthcare access, and on the attitudes and beliefs of families with children with complex medical needs. I was supported in this work by Dr. Reina Somarriba, Josue Chavez, Dr. Sid Dante and the rest of the wonderful SPTLN team.
My experience was marked by tremendous personal and intellectual growth. Working in the Chacraseca clinic with Dr. Somarriba several times a week improved my clinical and diagnostic skills, as well as brought to my attention the wide variety of health issues and health access barriers that members of this community face. I was warmly welcomed by the clinic staff as well as community members, and enjoyed the continuity of getting to know so many community members and patients over the course of the summer. FNEI also supported my Spanish language improvement, by arranging lessons at the Dariana School in León. This was a wonderful opportunity to practice my Spanish as well as get to know León in a more “local” way with my Spanish teacher.
Far and away, I was most affected by the amazing network that I became a part of through FNEI. The organization helped set up my modified home stay, where I met other medical student interns working with FNEI. We all ended up spending many weekends traveling and exploring Nicaragua together, often with FNEI staff as well. Michael, Rebecca, Jose and other FNEI members were incredible at organizing group activities and events. I feel grateful to have been able to navigate all the curveballs of Nicaragua living with this incredible group of people. I left León feeling like I have my Nicaragua network and family there whenever I return.
I look forward to continuing to work with SPTLN and returning to Nicaragua as soon as I can! ¡Gracias a toda mi familia de FNEI por toda su ayuda, les extraño mucho y nos vemos en León muy pronto!
Brooke Schuman | MD Candidate
UConn School of Medicine, Class of 2020