How Two Weeks in Panama Can Change Your Life

From the moment I arrived in Panama I experienced so many things. I got to see a land full of diversity and enriched in culture. I also got to see an unstructured health system that at times can not meet the demands of the people. From the long waits these residents have to endure, to not having access to vaccinations because the clinic does not have enough to supply the whole community. I stood front role into how important health care was to these community members and how vital it is that public health professionals like myself have to try to make a difference.

I believe the biggest lesson I learned during this trip that can be applied in many other nations and communities like the one we grew to know in Panama is that communities do care about their health, and it is our job as public health professionals to help them achieve the needs they so desire. We must come in just as we did when visiting the Embera tribe, respectful to their ways of living. We must not judge or make them feel as if they way they live is wrong. We must create an empowerment in these individuals to let them know they can have control over their own health. We must ignite a flame in them, so they know that if they mobilize together they can create the changes they want to see.

Being able to attend this trip this summer has done so much for me. I feel more appreciative for having access to the healthcare that I need. I appreciate having running water when I need it, not having to wait in a hot building to receive any type of health services. I appreciate the residents of the 24 de dieciembre community for allowing us to get a glimpse of their everyday life, and trusting in us enough for these two weeks to try to make some improvements. I also have an understanding and respect for the country of Panama and others like it. I also have developed a passion to help many communities like the one we visited for two weeks achieve many improvements in their healthcare system.

Most importantly I appreciate all of the beautiful people I got a chance to speak to, the wonderful girls  from USC I’ve grown to consider as not only friends but family, and the beautiful views of the Panama skyline will forever be in my heart.