As someone who is passionate about pursuing medicine, I knew it was important to find a study abroad program where I could learn more about the healthcare world. I am also passionate about learning the Spanish language and learning more about Latinx culture and so the program that I am currently participating in is the perfect blend of my two passions. This is due to location and subject matter as the program is stationed in the capital city of the beautiful Central American country Costa Rica, San Jose and has a specific theme of healthcare in Latin America.
While studying here in Costa Rica, I am taking four classes that all have something to do with healthcare and medicine with a central focus on Latin and Central America as this is the overarching theme of the program. The classes are as follows: Health Care in Latin America, Tropical Diseases, Health and Vulnerable Populations in Latin America, and Spanish for Health Care Professionals. I find all of these classes interesting, especially Tropical Diseases just because pathophysiology is something that I enjoy learning about; however, the one that has affected me the most is Health and Vulnerable Populations. As someone who is pursuing a career in medicine, I feel that it is imperative for all future health care professionals to become culturally competent. By my definition, cultural competency includes understanding that many minority groups are considered vulnerable.
So, who is vulnerable? In this class vulnerable populations have been defined as “racial or ethnic minorities, the uninsured, children, the elderly, the poor, the chronically ill, the physically disabled or handicapped, the terminally ill, the mentally ill, persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), alcohol or substance abusers, homeless individuals, residents of rural areas, individuals who do not speak the local language, those with difficulties in communicating, and those who are poorly educated or illiterate.” Before this class I had never taken a public health course, which this class is what I would assume one feels like, so I wasn’t fully aware of what it meant to be vulnerable. The class also opened my eyes to the full scope of who is considered to be vulnerable. Another thing this class taught me was that health is not just the absence of illness and infirmity, but also incorporates mental, spiritual, and emotional health.
Overall, this class has given me a new set of tools to add to my cultural competency toolbox on how to approach cultural barriers and to meet people where they are at in life.