One of the highlights and most exciting aspects of this program was the research. Every week, I’d look forward to going to the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubiran, which was in the center of a bustling and lively neighborhood. We conducted research at CAIPaDi, which is a center for comprehensive care of patients with diabetes, comprehensive being the key word! Diabetes is a growing global epidemic, but it is a prominent issue in Mexico that affects around 12% of the population, and is intertwined with so many other areas of health such as chronic kidney disease.
At CAIPaDi, the approach to tackling the diabetes problem is through a truly comprehensive empowerment of the patients. It is a great model and step towards preventative care and informed self care. Throughout the four visits over a span of four months, there are 9 different stations that patients must participate in, including: endocrinology, psychiatry, psychology, foot care, ophthalmology, nutrition, diabetes education, physical activity, and odontology. As patients make their rounds through each station, they get to attend both individual and group sessions with the doctors that specialize in each field and with other diabetic patients. We had a chance to sit in on many of these stations. I found this program to be refreshing and enlightening, because a combination of interventions really is needed for holistic care in the combat of diabetes. Also, it is especially meaningful for the patients to feel empowered, because there is nothing more powerful and motivating than knowing that you can make a change in your own well-being.
My experience at CAIPaDi was eye-opening, in a way that being in class could never show me. We worked with the doctors to initiate a clinical research project about the socioeconomic status of the patients at CAIPaDi, in hopes of better understanding the outside factors that could affect how they take care of themselves. And in turn, we hoped that we could find something that could help us level the playing field for the diabetic patients, especially amidst the huge disparities in Mexico. We made our own survey and administered it to the patients. The fun part was that this was all done in Spanish! Although it was intimidating at first, I realized that these challenges reflect the everyday components of the job, because communication and connection are just as important as the care of patients itself. We also had the chance to make impactful digital messages and simple games for the patients regarding foot care, eye care, and hypoglycemia, to provide them with more self-care tools. At the end, we were able to compile the data and even present to all the health professionals who worked at CAIPaDi! Bonus point: the presentation itself was in Spanish!
But the part that I valued most about this experience was the chance to interact with both the doctors and the patients, and to understand each of their stories. As I learned of the circumstances of each of the patients, it was like being given puzzle pieces to add to their whole story. It was also truly a joy to be able to shadow and work with our mentors Dr. Hernandez and Dr. Ulloa, because they supported us every step of the way and pushed us to really embrace different points of view. As doctors, they were adaptable, flexible, caring, and especially integrative. One of my favorite memories is eating Fiber One bars together every afternoon there, because that’s what patients could do to prevent hypoglycemia. So not only did they empower the patients, they empowered themselves and us too. I realized that in the field, not only do you learn, but you also feel, act, think, and connect in a way that takes you out of your comfort zone and motivates your work. These last few weeks of research have brought me closer to understanding what it means to help and do no harm, and what it means to enjoy what you do!