Articles and Case Studies

Make a Difference in Peru | MDA National Student eNews

11 Jun 2015

Stethoscope heart

“Seeing health care provided with limited resources, for those with limited resources, is an important part of the learning experience. It will help you develop an appreciation of your own healthcare system,” says Kevin Hurley, Director and founder of the Medical Elective Network.

Kevin answers a few questions about the Medical Elective Network which offers unique healthcare electives and medical Spanish programs in Peru.

Could you describe the work of the Medical Elective Network? 

We are a social enterprise providing healthcare electives and medical Spanish programs. We live and work in the city of Trujillo in Peru where we offer clinical placements at hospitals and clinics of all sizes. We also work with an award winning paediatric hospital in the city of Arequipa.

We offer the strongest medical Spanish program available with a team of four teachers providing four hours of classes each day. We offer the support of interpreters for some elective placements. Each year we partner with international teams to run free surgery missions. In addition to this, we run one-day health campaigns locally throughout the year.

We aim to continue and expand our social program of free surgical missions and local general health campaigns. We’re in the processing of appointing our own nutritionist to work in a clinic in a deprived area of Trujillo, and we see more such appointments as being the future for our work here.

How was the Medical Elective Network started?

We started it in May 2011. We felt we could improve on what was being offered by other elective providers in Latin America in several ways, such as a better choice of hospitals and comfortable accommodation. For example, a structured medical Spanish program offered at different levels and offering single room homestay accommodation with families, rather than only shared rooms in a student house. We began with one brave medical student – and now, as well as medicine, we offer programs for students and professionals in nursing, nutrition and physiotherapy.

What is your background?

I’m originally from the UK and have been living in Peru for just over five years with my family. Prior to that, I worked in London managing social housing. I first visited Peru 15 years ago, always having had an interest in seeing South America. I never imagined I would be making a life here. My wife is from Trujillo and qualified as a midwife 20 years ago.

What feedback have you had from people who’ve been on your placements? 

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Feedback is important to us and thankfully it has been generally positive. We publish testimonials on our blog where participants talk about their clinical experiences as well as medical Spanish classes and weekend trips. For me, the most interesting feedback is not actually about the program, but the comments of participants whose experience of working with those most in need has made a strong impression upon them.

What are some of the highlights? 

It has been a great experience starting and building up our small organisation. Also, it’s very satisfying each time a student comes to finish their elective and tells us we’ve helped provide a great experience for them. For me, as a non-medical person, I find it particularly rewarding and special to be part of a surgical mission. These are always great one-week experiences and, thankfully, have always gone well. The best moments are seeing parents reuniting with their child who has just had a successful operation.

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What advice would you give to students planning their elective?

Come with an open mind – that’s my advice to students planning their elective in a developing country such as Peru. The reality is that you’re probably not going to learn new medical techniques, but you’re likely to see more interesting cases than you would at home.

You may well see things done differently in the hospital and perhaps not as you would like. However, to see health care provided with limited resources, for those with limited resources, is an important part of the learning experience. It will help you develop an appreciation of your own healthcare system. It’s also important to see the hospital as just one element of the experience. Take the opportunity to get to know the places and people in the country you are visiting – and I’m sure you will gain lifelong memories.


Interested in making a difference in Peru?


Click here for more information on the Medical Elective Network.
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