By Abdelaziz Maldisa (Class 2022)
Photo credits: Arvin Tan (Class 2024) and Rafael Arriola (Class 2024)
Last September 24, 2018, Medical Students for Social Responsibility – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (MSSR-IPPNW) held a talk on foreign electives at the CH222 in Calderon Hall.
The event aimed to highlight opportunities and learning experiences from taking up medical electives abroad. Reasons commonly cited to pursue the endeavor are the desire to learn from health systems in use in other countries, and to immerse oneself in different cultures and places.
The talk was graced by four speakers, namely Regiel Mag-usara (Class 2020), Kristoffer Verdan (UST-FMS, from AMSA-UST), Ramon Antonio King (UST-FMS, former president of AMSA-UST), and Sofia Varela (Class 2020, former president of MSSR).
The first speaker, Regiel Mag-usara, talked about his cardiology elective in the John Radcliffe Hospital of Oxford University, UK. The Oxford Internship Program allowed him to experience a healthcare system completely different from PGH and the Philippines. For example, UK’s National Health Service dictates that every healthcare expense is shouldered by the taxpayer. While Oxford doesn’t charge tuition, a month-long elective in the UK may remain expensive in terms of cost of living. However, the university opens their application period 2 years before the actual elective, giving the aspiring student ample time to think about the expenses, tagged at 150,000-200,000 pesos. Mag-usara also notes the large and hospitable Filipino community in Oxford, most of them nurses who work in the neighboring hospitals.
Mr. Verdan discussed the Asian Medical Students Association (AMSA) Philippines’ electives program, SCOPE. As MSSR-IPPNW is UP’s representative organization to AMSA-Philippines, active membership in the organization is a prerequisite to joining the program. SCOPE covers both bilateral and unilateral exchanges with countries such as France, Morocco, Germany, Austria, Spain and Sweden.
Ramon King, also from UST, finished his Internal Medicine elective in Japan. He strongly motivated the audience to pursue electives abroad by sharing his experience, likening it to “Lost in Translation.”. He pointed out that the language barrier may be hard to surmount, but side trip excursions to Kyoto, getting lost in a ramen museum, and visiting an actual Pokemon center could be light but compelling additional reasons to pursuing the elective.
Last to speak was Sofia Varela, who did her elective on Radiation Oncology in Goethe-Universität , Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, a person was assigned to translate and help her settle in during her first few days in the city. As continental Europe is connected via rail, Varela was able to travel to neighboring countries during weekends.
The importance of immersing oneself in different cultures, especially in the context of a more globalized world, cannot be understated. As the speakers emphasized time and again, learning should not merely be confined to the four walls of the classroom and the hospital. Travel allows one to see that this world could be so different, yet fundamentally the same.