I did quite a bit of research into where I wanted to travel for my medical elective. Because of the areas I’m interested in, Mexico seemed like a good choice. Conditions relating to the eye, for example, had a higher prevalence than many other countries.
A quick phone call with Work the World answered any final questions I had. The call cemented my interests and then it was just a case of reserving a space on the programme.
The team at Work the World provided me with a lot of useful information. They gave me a step-by-step breakdown of what would happen prior to departure and upon arrival.
It was really handy, especially when I was stressed out during the pre-exam months! It was one less thing to think about.
MyTrip — Work the World’s online placement planner — helped me stay organised, and it had tonnes of information to help me prep for my trip.
Arriving in Merida was super-easy. A member of the Work the World team met us at the airport and was clearly identifiable. We got talking right away and were travelling to the Work the World house before I knew it.
The house was huge.
I met my housemates that evening over a delicious meal prepared by the house catering team, and then, finally, went to bed.
Before I travelled to Mexico, I opted into Work the World’s Intensive Spanish Course. So, following a good night's sleep (and a hearty Mexican breakfast), it was time for Spanish School.
I met my Spanish teachers and from that point on it was ‘sin Inglés por 24 horas’.
The lessons were intense, but very much worth it. There was even a pool at the school for you to cool off in. The catering wasn’t half bad either.
And so went my first week in Mexico.
I spent my five-week clinical placement in Ophthalmology. Clinics were Monday to Wednesday, and I was in surgery Thursday and Friday mornings.
Mexico has a huge diabetes crisis, and with it a lot of eye conditions.
Because of healthcare system’s structure, patients who used the hospital got treatments either free or heavily discounted.
However, many patients who needed the hospital made less than 100 Pesos per day. A basic eye ultrasound cost 800 Pesos.
I met one female patient who contracted rubella during her pregnancy.
Many patients waited for months, even years before attending the general clinic. In some cases the irreparable damage had already been done.
The vaccination system in Mexico wasn’t terribly effective for those in a lower socioeconomic classes.
I met one female patient who contracted rubella during her pregnancy. It resulted in her twin babies not only being born premature, but also with bilateral cataracts.
Newborn baby checks weren’t performed and so her diagnosis was made quite late. The ophthalmologist had to explain to the mother that the State wouldn’t cover both babies operations.
She had to choose which baby to operate on and which to delay until she could afford to pay.
The surgeon explained to me that the mother had struggled to pay the 70 Peso bus journey. The likelihood of her affording two cataract surgeries was incredibly slim.
the ophthalmologists spoke great English so communicating about patients and diagnoses wasn’t a problem.
This was one of many challenging neonatal cases I saw across six weeks.
Almost all of the ophthalmologists spoke great English so communicating about patients and diagnoses wasn’t a problem. This also meant that teaching was efficient and worthwhile.
Thanks to Work the World’s Intensive Spanish Course (and a top up with some language apps), I took basic patient histories. I examined them on the slit lamp and then presented back to the senior.
During the weekends, the other students and I explored the Yucatan Peninsula. The bus system in Merida, and indeed across the Yucatan, was great. ADO buses were super comfy and made the journeys fly by.
We travelled Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Valladolid, Uxmal, Ek-Balaam, Progresso, Rio Lagartos and Los Colorados, and multiple cenotes, which are an absolute must!
Living with students from all over the world was great fun. I made some very good friends.
Comparing medicine and med school teaching from country to country was fascinating. As was getting to know everyone in the evenings and during weekend trips.
Even the smallest of grants is a step in the right direction.
In order to fund the trip I wrote to a few local optometrists and also applied to several university grants.
University grants are absolutely worth applying to. A lot of us students don’t check our emails, so we don’t know that they even exist a lot of the time. Either that or we’re too busy to write the application. So if you apply you might just get one. Even the smallest of grants is a step in the right direction.
If I had to pick one thing about the experience that will stick with me, it was definitely swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun.
Mexico was incredible. I will be talking about the experience for a long time to come. Work the World introduced me to an aspect of medicine I had very little experience of whilst studying in England. It also gave me experience in an entirely different healthcare system.
The bottom line? I’d highly recommend Merida as an elective destination!