My trip to Ecuador with the Cinterandes Foundation was a memorable experience. Going into the program, I expected to learn a lot about medicine and surgical procedures but the experience was much more emotive and influential than expected.

I was warmly welcomed by the Cinterandes staff and was treated as another member of the medical team despite my inexperience in a surgical setting. Working with the Cinterandes team reminded me of my former experiences as a member of the Spanish gymnastics national team. For instance, traveling together to the rural communities, assisting one another during surgeries in the Mobile Surgery Unit, sharing jokes, and enjoying meals after a long day of hard work made it seem like I was on the athletic team again. My first time scrubbing in for surgery brought back those familiar butterflies in my stomach that I hadn’t felt since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Like a gymnast who meticulously fixes her hand grips before an uneven bars performance, the surgeons carefully slip on their gloves in preparation for an operation. However, the surgeon’s “performance” was unlike any of my gymnastics performances because it made a positive impact on another person’s life. I felt extremely content when I felt that helping these patients was much more gratifying than winning a medal.

My experience with Cinterandes helped me further appreciate the art of medicine and the dedication required to be a good doctor. I aspire to become a doctor as compassionate and dedicated as the doctors I met at Cinterandes. I return home with new friendships and great stories and look forward to collaborating with the Cinterandes team again in the near future.

I thank all the members of Cinterandes who made this trip a memorable one, especially Dr. Edgar Rodas, Dr. Edgar B. Rodas, Dr. Blasco Guzhñay, and Dr. Ana Vicuña, who were the best teachers I could ask for.

Lenika De Simone 

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