I was born in Guatemala and raised in Southern California. Growing up, I remember my mom always telling me, “En la casa hablamos Español, en la escuela puede habalr Ingles,” which translates to, “At home we speak Spanish, at school you can speak English.” In my early childhood, I remember struggling with both languages. There were things that I didn’t know how to say in Spanish, and there were some Spanish sayings that I could not find a translation for in English.
Once in college, I came to recognize the importance of being fluent in both languages and constantly thanked my mom for making me practice a crucial part of my culture. When it came to deciding where to travel for my global health research, the only thing that I knew was that I wanted to work with a Spanish-speaking population to be able to better represent that population in research studies.
I ended up choosing a bi-national research team that would allow me to do a research study that extended beyond this summer and allow me to continue to build relationships throughout my medical school career. This summer I have been working with teams both in San Diego, California and in Ensenada, Mexico to help in the validation of a quality of life study for parents and children with craniofacial conditions.
Having previously worked as a project coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles on a study that also focused on quality of life, I immediately resonated with the mission of the study. While I am still awaiting Institutional Review Board approval, I hope to work with the families in San Diego and in Baja California to see if a problem-solving skills training intervention would help parents of children with craniofacial conditions improve their stress levels and, in turn, increase their child’s quality of life.
Traveling to Ensenada with Dr. Alicia Sigler, a plastic surgeon that travels across Baja California to provide care for low income patients with cleft lip and palate, I have seen several passionate healthcare providers trying their best to fit in as many children into their schedule before they are lost to follow-up. Speaking with Dr. Sigler on our long drives down the Mexican coast, we have reflected on the importance of not only including patients that accurately represent the population, but also including international medical students and healthcare providers in the research to further collaborate and share experiences. My hope is to continue to build relationships in the next three years, sharing my research knowledge and learning from my global health partners.