Emma Mohler certainly had a summer to remember.
Mohler, a Health Careers student at Meridian Technology Center, was selected to participate in the Global Pre-Meds health care training program, where she spent two weeks this summer being mentored by Caroleny Cespedes, a physician at Provincial hospital Francisco Gonzalvo in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
She arrived on a Tuesday and was working alongside doctors on Wednesday. Within hours of being in the hospital, Mohler found herself in the operating room observing procedures. On her first day, she witnessed a surgery to repair an undescended testicle on a four-year-old, multiple circumcisions, emergency cesareans and a natural birth.
“Everything is very different there. I mean everything,” she said. “Anesthesia is in short supply, so it’s reserved for only the most severe cases.”
The facility where she spent most of her time specializes in care for children and expectant mothers. While it was more modern than she expected, Mohler said it reminded her more of a high school science classroom than a hospital.
“The operating rooms were nothing like what we have here,” she explained. “Everything was really clean, but it also seemed very outdated.”
A Cross-Cultural Education
The Stillwater student learned about the medical-based cultural exchange program through HOSA, the CareerTech Student Organization associated with her program at Tech. When Mohler proposed the program to her mother, she said it was an easy sell.
“My family saw it as an investment in my education,” she said. “We knew if I was selected that it would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about a future in the medical field. It could also give me the chance to practice Spanish in a medical setting.”
Part of the Global Pre-Meds program also enables participants to contribute to the community while they serve. In addition to time in the clinical setting, program participants have built-in volunteer activities such as picking up debris within the community, preparing meals in a shelter or helping in local orphanages. This program element was particularly meaningful to Mohler as she was able to get a better understanding of the daily life of the patients she worked with.
“There’s no doubt it expanded my world view,” she said. “It was humbling, and I know I grew up quite a bit in just two weeks.”
Mohler said she was most moved by situations centered around the age of many of the expectant mothers.
“We had one patient that looked like an adult, but I later found out she was only 15,” she elaborated. “That really took my breath away. It wasn’t the only instance of young patients, though. There are just a lot of sad things that happen there.”
Now that she is back home, Mohler is looking forward to completing her Health Careers training at Tech in the fall and then continuing to college to eventually attend medical school.
“I went into this program not sure if I wanted to go into nursing or into medical school,” she said. “Watching all of these surgeries helped me decide that is the path that I really want to take.”
The Global Pre-Meds program began in 2015 to assist medical students in their final year of study in gaining experience in international hospitals. As the program gained popularity, there was a growing interest from pre-med and pre-health care students who wanted global health care experiences. In 2019, the United Kingdom-based Global Pre-Meds expanded its services to American pre-med and pre-health care students. Since its inception, Global Pre-Meds has helped connect more than 15,000 students to international hospital settings.