Being a part of HOP was undoubtedly the most valuable experience I have had thus far as I move forward with my education and journey on the pre-med track. To be able to fully immerse myself in a culture and appreciate the healthcare system through the lens of public health was a truly incredible opportunity. Simply interacting with the community was by far my favorite part of the trip. I was humbled by their appreciation for the little things in life--no matter the circumstances or environment in which they lived, they were kind, selfless, and thankful for everything they did have. Getting to know and interact with the children was the moment I most looked forward to every day, and having to leave them and the organization at the end of the trip was way harder than I ever could have imagined.
The medical experiences that I had during the trip were also invaluable, and I know they will continue to help me both now and as a healthcare professional in the future. Not only were they opportunities to learn and grow as a pre-med student, but they also proved to me that I am excited to be in the medical field in the future. There are two specific experiences I had while in Peru that have truly resonated with me. First, I was able to see a live birth, which was absolutely incredible. Being able to witness a new life starting and learning exactly what was happening was interesting, exciting, and beautiful, and it left me feeling inspired. The other experience that I truly learned from is when we went to the highlands for a campaign. That day, I had the responsibility of doing hemoglobin tests on all of the children. Seeing how many of them were anemic was really difficult, but to be able to help them, even in the smallest of ways, is a feeling I still haven't forgotten. At the end, I was able to explain to a woman and her two sons what being anemic even meant. I explained everything from what hemoglobin is to how oxygen has to travel through the blood and brain, which pushed me out of my comfort zone both linguistically and medically. I left feeling helpless because the situation felt too big to fix, but also proud that I could help even one family. They were grateful for the few moments I spent with them, and while they may not remember me, I know that that moment is something I will never forget.Sam Catalano, SS1 2019