The Mayo International Health Program experience varies, depending on the needs of patients being served and the existing resources in unique underserved communities throughout the world. Rotations usually last from one to four weeks and include opportunities to experience roles beyond providing care, such as leadership and education.
Past Mayo International Health Program participants share their experiences:
Stephanie Sims, M.D., General Surgery
Rotation to Honduras, May 2016
My experience with the SCA Medical Missions group in Honduras was an inspirational and perspective-changing experience.
From the very start of our trip, on arrival in Tegucigalpa, we found ourselves in the middle of one of the most crowded airports I have ever experienced, but unlike what often occurs in congested places in the U.S., the Hondurans did not seem frustrated or bothered by the throngs of visitors. Rather than the pushing and hurrying about one might expect, I saw smiles and patience on their faces. From the very beginning I had a sense this patient population would be a privilege for us to care for, and they certainly lived up to this anticipation and far exceeded it.
During our time in Honduras, our brigade performed 66 operations and saw about 200 patients in the clinic. I was struck by the unwavering positive attitudes and appreciation throughout this patient group.
Julia Iafrate, D.O., Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Rotation to Nepal, April 2016
The surgeons and staff I worked with were wonderful. In the operating room, I was able to be very hands-on, assisting in multiple traumatic fracture fixations and joint replacements. I was able to learn so much from this team of surgeons.
In clinic, my background in physical medicine and rehabilitation allowed me to take on more of a consultant role, and often the interns and residents would staff their patients with me instead of one of the attendings. It was an excellent experience, both for my personal education and to further develop my teaching skill set.
By the end of my time there, I was both excited to come home and sad to leave. Nepal gets inside you; it becomes part of you, and its people become your brothers and sisters. I made some wonderful friends and cannot wait to go back to Kathmandu on my own time. My visit to Nepal proved to be a life-changing experience that challenged me to adapt to different methods of practicing medicine and exposed me to a culture I had not seen before.
I am grateful to the Mayo International Health Program for providing me the opportunity to give back, while gaining so much myself.
Jason M. Woodbury, M.D., Pediatric Anesthesiology
Rotation to Ecuador, September 2015
As I reflect on my mission trip to Quito, I find it to be one of the most unique experiences of my life. I had never been that far out of the States, and I was not sure what to expect. What I found was a culture and a medical experience that was both familiar to me and completely foreign.
Working in Quito for a week was an absolutely fantastic experience. The people we helped had so little and were so grateful for our assistance. From a professional standpoint, I was amazed that we could run such a simple, effective and safe anesthetic practice with so few resources.
From a personal standpoint, I found that there is a wonderful culture in Ecuador. We had the chance to take a trip up into the mountains to a private ranch, where they had a really nice outdoor barbecue for us and taught us how to ride horses. What an amazing experience that was! I will definitely look back on my time in Ecuador with fondness.
Courtney L. Nibbe, M.D., Family Medicine
Rotation to Vietnam, March 2015
Being able to travel the length of Vietnam with the organization Children of Peace International (COPI) was an incredible experience.
The personal impact of this trip is hard to measure. I met many wonderful people, saw gorgeous landscapes and ate delicious cuisine. I saw the dedication of people who are passionate and compassionate, and my hope is to emulate their service and giving hearts. There is so much need and hurt in this world and being able to contribute in helping in a small way with my skilled services was humbling and rewarding.
I am more aware now of what is going on in Vietnam and surrounding countries, and I hope to always share the daily thought of Binh Rybacki, the leader of COPI, "What have I done today that is in the best interest of a child?"
Jennifer L. Horsley-Silva, M.D., Gastroenterology
Rotation in Nepal, April 2014
I believe this experience has impacted me both personally and professionally. I think exposure to a different people and way of life has made me a more accepting and appreciative human being. I saw how the practice of medicine can be so similar (as in knowledge) yet different due to lack of resources, cost and advanced training. This has inspired me to do more international volunteerism and be more aware of the need for public health advances in other countries.
Traveling abroad to a poverty-stricken country has provided me with unique insight, training and understanding that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.
Rebekah M. Case, M.D., Family Medicine
Rotation in Ecuador, January 2014
My confidence in my own physical examination skills grew as I was forced to rely less on laboratory and imaging testing to make diagnoses. I learned new ways of being resourceful and creative to solve problems. My Spanish vocabulary and ability to communicate in Spanish expanded exponentially. My awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences was enhanced. I learned how to better cross-cultural divides. I also became more appreciative of the wealth of resources we have here in the United States.
My experience in Ecuador was truly invaluable. Working in the hospital in Ibarra and the two clinics in Gualsaqui and Mojanda gave me exposure to illnesses uncommon in the United States and taught me how to be more frugal with resources.
Emily R. Patterson, M.D., Anatomic and Clinical Pathology
Rotation in Cameroon, April 2013
I would describe my experiences working in the pathology department at Mbingo Baptist Hospital as formative and eye-opening. I am appreciative of every day I spent at Mbingo Baptist Hospital because I learned an incredible amount about medicine and the Cameroonian culture from both a personal and professional perspective.
From a personal perspective, this experience has been unbelievably eye-opening. It has taught me to be appreciative of the many small luxuries that we take for granted, including good health, access to excellent health care, and reliable internet and electricity. From a professional perspective, I saw numerous clinical cases, infections and tumors that are either uncommon or cases I would never see during my training at Mayo Clinic.
My experience working at Mbingo Baptist Hospital was extremely challenging and at times sad, but also eye-opening and rewarding. Every day presented amazing new learning and teaching opportunities.
Tanya H. Tajouri, M.D., Cardiovascular Diseases
Rotation in Kenya, March 2012
Immersing myself in such a medically underserved community for five weeks and meeting and caring for people who have had little or no access to regular medical care made me aware of the psychological and social dimensions of the practice of medicine and the importance of primary prevention and the careful management of finite resources and the need for innovative care.
I learned to rely on the art of the physical examination and listening to my patient's history rather than laboratory and imaging studies. I witnessed the faces of people, sometimes hopeless and sometimes hopeful, though all desperate for medical care. I realized that healing is not a result; it is a process and can take many forms. At times listening and talking with patients was the first step in caring.
Shane M. Gillespie, D.O., Anesthesiology
Rotation in Vietnam, March 2011
I spent a total of five days in an operating-hospital setting in Hanoi, Vietnam. I spent my time working with three compassionate pediatric anesthesiologists.
Our first day consisted of pre-screening patients with cleft deformities to deem them safe for anesthesia. I was impacted immediately by the long line of parents and their children lining up and out the hallway as they patiently waited in their best clothes to be seen by the American doctors in hopes of their children receiving the much-needed surgery.
The families were truly inspiring to me, as they had traveled many miles with very little and were still completely thrilled to have us there. What I perceived or what most American patients would perceive as an inconvenience was no inconvenience at all to these people. Americans could learn a lot from these people and their culture.