My name is Greg and I am from The University of Sydney, Australia. I have just completed my four week elective placement with the Cinterandes Foundation in January 2015. I had high expectations for the experience, but even my expectations were exceeded by the real thing. Cinterandes really provides the most amazing experience for any medical student, in terms of the medicine, the cultural immersion, the new friendships and the good times.

 I have an interest in trauma surgery, and the team at Cinterandes were more than happy to cater for this. At orientation, we were asked what we would like to achieve throughout the month, following which we were able to choose the hospital departments we wished to work in. I spent three weeks of my elective with the trauma surgery team at the main public hospital of Cuenca, Vicente Corral Moscoso, working both daytime and night shifts. I had a variety of roles, including observing trauma patient resuscitation in the Emergency Department, the chance to practise suturing on superficial trauma wounds, following serious trauma patients into operating theatres to observe and assist in surgery, and post-operative ward patient care.

For the fourth week, we embarked on the mobile surgery mission to a town called Yaruquies at the base of the Andes Mountains.  This experience truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I rotated with the other medical students as first assistant in the mobile surgery operating theatre, after which we each followed our own patients to the post-operative recovery area for observation. In between this, we played football and basketball with the local children – the most tiring but fun part of the day!

The Cinterandes experience was not just a medical placement for me. I had plenty of time throughout the month to experience Ecuadorian life, visit some beautiful places and make some lifelong friends. I undertook the homestay in Cuenca which was a great way to experience Ecuadorian family life and to practise Spanish. On weekends, I was able to travel to some beautiful parts of Ecuador, including the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Jungle and Pacific coastal Ecuador. The interns and residents were always happy to help out in the hospital setting, and throughout the month they also invited us along to their social gatherings. For anyone looking for the perfectly balanced elective experience, I cannot recommend Cinterandes enough – the teaching is second to none, the opportunities are vast, the cultural experiences are once in a lifetime and the friendships and memories are lifelong!

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