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Doctor and Pediatrician: The Journey

This month I want to share my feelings and tell a story, a story of sacrifice, of learning, of friendship, and life lessons: a story that began 13 years ago. I decided to study medicine to relieve the pain of the most afflicted because medicine is a career in which we are at the service of our neighbor as well as our own advancement and self-improvement. Deep inside my soul had been planted the seed of a vocation for medicine. I did not choose medicine, it chose me. I knew I had all the qualities to be a good doctor.

All my life we lived sheltered by the warmth of our homes, but the time came to leave. Holding back tears we tried to change the sadness of leaving for the hope of pursuing our longing.  We filled a bag with memories, hope, and courage. After a strong embrace with our family, we closed our eyes and set them on our goal. We were warned that the days ahead would be hard, that we would spend long sleepless nights and we would say goodbye to our social life. We arrived in a new land. Many of us knew nothing and no one. We were in a new culture, new traditions, new places. Meeting the enrollment requirements was already a challenge and we were surprised to find that many aspired to the career we wanted. The competition was difficult in the introductory course but we finally managed to enter the program. We were officially only 30 students at that moment and we were privileged. When the first day of classes arrived, we had only one classroom and the library was very limited. It was there where we met our first classmates who gradually became friends, then sisters.

When we first entered the medical program we thought the career would be done with two years in URACCAN University at Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas and then the rest at UNAN University in León. Then we were informed that it would not be that. Many of us were discouraged to the point of crying together. It seemed that our wonderful dream of becoming doctors would be cut short because, in our region of east Nicaragua, a full medical program would be impossible. How wrong we were! We became the first generation of medical students from the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua! Our enthusiasm and desire to learn pushed us forward, even taking classes under the trees. We were strong and brave and enthusiastic women who would not give up. And there were people who always motivated us to reach our desired utopia. Today we are infinitely grateful for the trust of both professors and people who noticed our effort and thirst for knowledge. They encouraged us and they supported us.

In the medical program of URACCAN University we learned the intercultural approach and we saw the need to serve our people with quality, love, and warmth. We managed to understand that the health and disease processes in people start from different perspectives. We learned to respect the worldview of each of our patients and to solve their discomfort with scientific knowledge. The road was quite long. A moment I will never forget was the first time a patient said, “Thank you, Doctor.” I could not hide the smile on my face. That “thank you, Doctor” was my best payment and became my new source of motivation. I not only became a doctor, I also learned the meaning and the weight of responsibility, punctuality, respect, formality, discipline, companionship and, above all, humanism.

In 2019 I pursued a new experience away from my region. At the university in the city of León I managed to qualify for the specialty of Pediatrics. Three years have passed and in all this time I spent away from my family, the strength I built with faith in God was truly great. My conviction is that with perseverance, faith, and constancy, dreams can be fulfilled. On March 25 I graduated as a Pediatric specialist. I dedicate this great triumph to God, to Sister Ann McKean, and to my family. Thank you for teaching me in the most difficult moments to trust myself.  Adelante Mujer! You are more powerful than you think!

This photo was taken on the day I graduated as a pediatrician.    

Doctor Ana C.  ~  May 2022

My Soul Friend, Sister Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I entered the Intercultural Medicine Program at URACCAN University when it first began in 2009.  I could not afford even the mínimum program fees and had to charge them.  During my second year I was stressed about how I would ever be able to follow my dream to become a doctor.  It was then that I first met Sister Ann McKean, CSA at the convent in Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua and I told her my problem.  That ángel of mine went to the university and paid my fees and when she brought the receipt to my home, I cried.  That was how I became the first Adelante Mujer student and that was the beginning of my beautiful relationship with Sister Ann.

Sister Ann taught me that with constancy and perseverance dreams can be fulfilled.  No matter how unattainable a goal may seem, with faith and with God’s help everything is possible.  God put Sister Ann in my path and, from the first day we met, we were in regular contact with each other.  She was my counselor in the most difficult moments and she encouraged me to focus on my study and learning and not to worry about economic obstacles that arise.  She was not only a support for me but a great soul friend.

We talked about many topics, she even advised me in my personal life.  Sister Ann used to say: “Yes, practice makes perfect, I hope, but I have practiced a long time already.”  It was, perhaps, her way of encouraging me in those moments in which, no matter how much I studied, I felt that I still had a lot to learn.  “I understand,” Sister Ann advised.  “I was attracted to teaching just like you were drawn or attracted toward healing people.  We each have a natural talent or ‘call’ to become something.  We are attracted to it and in that way it “chose us.”  With her I learned that maybe God had a purpose with me so that I could become a great Doctor.

One night, the night before my first day in pediatrics, I was doing Facebook Messenger with Sister Ann.  I told her I was nervous about my new rotation at the hospital.  She suggested, “Drink some warm milk and go to sleep.  You’ll do fine.”  And I did.

During my two years of Social Service I visited and worked in the communities along the RioCoco.  Of course, I shared this experience with my soul friend.  She was totally interested when I used my iPhone to show her around the Waspam hospital.

Then we had the horror of Covid 19 pandemic, an experience that I never in my life thought I could face.  It was a pandemic that not only took with it many of my teachers and colleagues but, during that same time, my soul friend also died.  Deep sadness flooded by mind and heart but I remembered her words.  I knew I had to be strong, I knew I could not fail her.  I am sure that Sister Ann lives in each of our hearts, I am sure she smiles at me from heaven.  It is that most beautiful smile that makes me cry with happiness.

Photos show me on the first day I met Sister Ann and Sister Ann in Nicaragua.  

Next month I will tell you about my call to be a doctor and then a pediatrician.

Dr. Ana

Reasons to Celebrate

On February 18, Adelante Mujer students took the Hippocratic Oath along with their peers at their URACCAN University promotion ceremony.  Ms. Kathy Levy Wilson, onsite coordinator for Adelante Mujer, spoke at the ceremony, reminding the women that while they have been inspired by others, they are to go on to be an inspiration.  We congratulate Adelante Mujer Doctors Dominga, Nerey, Junieth, Damaris, Slilma, Slilma, Xochilt, and Gloria, and all those who took the oath.

In addition to those students being promoted, several Adelante Mujer graduates have completed their years of social service and successfully defended their theses. They now have their “Título” and are heading to Managua to obtain their MINSA code, equivalent to licensing in the US. We congratulate Doctors Yamileth, Joselyn, Yeimi, Angelica, Jhorda, Marianna, and Oshin. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we congratulate our very first student, Doctor Ana, who recently completed her specialty in pediatrics!  Adelante Mujer graduates are making a difference!

Connecting in a Pandemic

Until December 2019, the director(s) of Adelante Mujer would travel to Nicaragua two times each year. While there, they would interview prospective students, meet with current students, and meet with the on-site coordinator. If the timing was right, they would even attend a promotion ceremony. All of these events are great ways to get to know the women in our program. Then COVID hit. 

Pandemic. Unprecedented. Social distancing. PPE. Quarantine. Virtual. New normal. Since early 2020, these words and phrases have taken on new significance. The world has changed. We have changed. Our ways of connecting have changed.  International travel has decreased by 73%, and until recently, in-person meetings were nearly non-existent. 

So how does a small international nonprofit make it work? Through Zoom, of course! Through Zoom meetings, we are able to stay in regular contact with our on-site coordinator. We can discuss the needs of the women, changes at the university, events that impact the people of Nicaragua. We also interview our prospective students over Zoom. The students at URACCAN often don’t have a computer, and some don’t even have phones. But for those determined to find a way to stay in school and who learn about Adelante Mujer, they overcome the barriers.  

Last semester, we interviewed four students, all using their phones. One had to find a spot to interview between her activities. Another had to go to a relative’s house to borrow a phone for the interview. All four interviewed well. We are only waiting for their grades from last semester to determine eligibility. The new semester starts soon, so please pray for Michayska, Jheymi, Josneira, and Arlen. They may be the next Adelante Mujer students! 

~~~ Karen, February 2022 ~~~

 

Made for Goodness and Compassion

Photo of Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Photo by John Mathew Smith. Licensed under the CCPL

God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. – Desmond Tutu

With the recent passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on his life and some of the wisdom he shared with the world.  Tutu was a passionate man who believed in the equality of all people and worked for the rights of the oppressed.  He believed everyone deserved a quality education, stating, “It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible.” When Tutu graduated high school in 1950, he wanted to become a doctor and had been accepted into medical school.  However, his parents couldn’t afford the tuition.  He was able to get a scholarship to study education, so was able to go to college. Continue reading “Made for Goodness and Compassion”

A Time of Waiting

Advent is a time of expectant waiting for Christians. During that time, we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, opening our minds and hearts to the coming of Christ. As Pope Francis stated, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world.”  –  Pope Francis, Angelus, 2018

The women in Adelante Mujer are at a time in their lives where they are doing just that. They are looking beyond themselves and expanding their minds as they study their courses. Continue reading “A Time of Waiting”

Choices

Think about the choices you make each day – what to eat, what to wear, how you will spend your time. Oftentimes, you have multiple options. Here in the United States, most of us have choices between wants, not needs. But in countries like Nicaragua, that is often not the case. Young university women are faced with choices such as, “Do I spend money on a taxi to safely get to my destination or do I walk tonight so that I have enough money for a meal?”  

The students in the Adelante Mujer program do not have to make that decision. Our program offers them funding for transportation to the hospital for on-site training and for a meal when they are on campus. Our program helps relieve some Continue reading “Choices”

The Difference You Make

Nicaragua, a land of natural beauty, has a culturally diverse population, with over 400,000 inhabitants identifying themselves as members of an indigenous or ethnic community.  Many of these indigenous peoples live in the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast.  In this rural area of the country, doctors and hospitals are in short supply, with a patient to doctor ratio of approximately 9,000 to 1.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, “To eliminate health inequities for indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and members of other ethnic groups, it is essential to promote intercultural approaches. Intercultural health models such as complementary, traditional and integrative medicine (TCIM) contribute to self-determination by promoting self-care, Continue reading “The Difference You Make”

In Their Own Words

In July, we shared that our campaign to raise money for computers was a success.  Our onsite coordinator in Nicaragua wrote, “The girls told me to say thanks for this great help and some of them said that they were going to say thanks personally, they are so happy and thankful.”  Many of the women have written to show their gratitude for the computers, and for ongoing financial support.  We would like to share some of that appreciation in their own words.

“I already received the computer and I want to thank you infinitely for the support that you and together with the Continue reading “In Their Own Words”

Passing the Baton

Throughout my 63 years as a Sister of St. Agnes, I have been blessed to work in various exciting and fulfilling ministries. Without a doubt, roles I played in Adelante Mujer these last seven-plus years were the ultimate definition of exciting and fulfilling! Working with Sister Ann McKean, CSA, PhD, the Foundress of Adelante Mujer, was never boring because her brilliant mind and daily ideas to improve the world were forever expanding. Sister Diane and KarenInteracting with more than one hundred medical students who overcome challenges beyond our comprehension was inspiring. Collaborating with numerous personnel in Nicaragua was a privilege and blessing as was working with our own office staff in Fond du Lac. Continue reading “Passing the Baton”