MPH Panama Practicum 2013: From Frustration to Motivations

Valerie Le
July 10, 2013

Upon my arrival in Panama, I realized that the most difficult obstacle I have to face is the language barrier. Although I can understand some Spanish, it is challenging for me to converse with people. Not only am I curious about Panama’s history and culture, I also want to know more about the people I encounter on this trip. Thus, that is why there is frustration. However, my awesome hearing health group partner gave me the suggestion to just speak whatever I can and the person I am talking to will help correct my Spanish. I tried that and realized I spoke more conversational Spanish in one day than I did in my four years of Spanish in school. Furthermore, each day I am actually learning more of the language and that motivated me to immerse myself in the culture.

The tour of the city and the Panama Canal left me with the impression that Panama is not only a beautiful country but also the connecting point for the rest of the world. It was such an amazing trip that not only expanded my knowledge but started my time here in Panama with energy and motivation.

During our first day on site, the Hearing Health group visited Hospital del Nino where we met Dra. Stella Rowley. We were given a detail tour of the many floors of the hospital and witnessed babies being screened for hearing problems. Although the hospital’s infrastructure was not in the best condition, all the staff were still very devoted to their work. I have to say that their devotion is contagious because after meeting some of them, I feel a sense of motivation to put all my energy and efforts into this project because I want to contribute as much as I can to help them.

On our second day on site, our group went with Foundacion Oir es Vivir to an orphanage called Hogar Divino Nino. There we gave were able to observe children receive hearing screenings. While at the orphanage, a little girl who was waiting to be screened reached out from her crib to get my attention. She wanted to play with me and constantly reached up to hug me. It seems as if she longs for attention and affection. That moment is one of those moments you won’t be able to forget and it also provided me with motivation to work hard in order to possibly have an impact on the lives of her and other kids like her.

To be continued…


About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »