Partner with me to save lives

As a third-year medical student, I spend most of my time with patients in the hospital setting, and as a result I have learned some very important things. The most important of these is communication. This may seem like an obvious statement, as communication is important in all scenarios in life, not just in the hospital. However, when a patient is being wheeled into the trauma bay and there is commotion all around, the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate in seconds can become a matter of life or death. This becomes increasingly difficult when the patient under your care does not speak the same language as you do. I believe in order to become the best doctor I can be for my patients I must make it my duty to find a solution to this highly important problem. My first goal in finding this solution is to become fluent in Spanish in order to bridge the gap between myself and my Spanish-speaking patients. This is why you’re reading this, and why I have chosen to pursue a gap year beginning in August 2018 in my medical education to practice medicine and learn Spanish in Cusco, Peru.

              With your support, I will have the ability to attend a program with Maximo Nivel. I will spend the first 8 weeks doing intensive Spanish training in Cuzco, Peru. This training will consist of 4 hours of group Spanish followed by 2 hours of private Spanish every day. At the end of my days, I will have the opportunity to enroll in Tandem Learning Conversations (TLC) which will allow me to practice with a native speaker. The TLC is structured with the conversation split in half between English and Spanish, so both parties can practice and improve their language skills in a real life setting. Each day concludes by arriving to the home of the local family I will be living with. English is not their primary language, but especially when eating at the breakfast or dinner table.

              At the conclusion of my 8 weeks of intense Spanish, I will then transition to my medical internship. During my internship, I will be working in a medical setting where it will be my responsibility to function as a junior doctor. This means I will see patients by myself who only speak Spanish, and then I will assess them and make a plan to present to the attending physician about their ailment. The doctor and I will discuss the plan and determine how to proceed. This stage excites me immensely, as I will have the opportunity to practice Spanish in tandem with practicing medicine. I will be working with the doctor about 6 hours and will conclude with a 1 hour private Spanish lesson every day. This part of my program will last 6 months, and will be the part that I believe really contributes to my future practice.

              This opportunity will open doors that are crucial for the future of my patients and my medical career. While in Peru, I will have the ability to gain knowledge and experience I would otherwise not be exposed to. I believe by the conclusion of this experience, I will be prepared and equipped for much more than if I stayed on my current route. The conditions of hospitals in America are much more advanced, and I will return with a wider breadth of understanding for diagnostic medicine and physical techniques. Not only will I bring enhanced medical skills back with me, but I will also return with the ability to readily and fluidly communicate with an extremely large and ever-growing population of Spanish-speaking patients. Imagine how many more lives can be saved without having to hope there will be an interpreter nearby!

              My passion and interest in international medicine has existed for a long time, and was exponentially sparked when I completed a volunteer trip in La Antigua, Guatemala in the summer of 2017. During my short 2 week stay, I spent my time similarly: working in a clinic called Puesto de Salud Ciudad Vieja during the day and concluding my evenings with Spanish classes and tutoring. I am committed to enhancing my skills for many reasons, but the main reason never changes. I want to help as many people as I can as effectively as I can, and I will do whatever it takes to leave the world a better place than when I got here.

          While away, Kimmi will be holding down the fort and taking care of our cat, Charlie in DC. At the conclusion of my year serving and learning abroad, I will return to Howard University College of Medicine to complete my medical degree with a graduation date in 2020. 
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Keith Simmons
Washington D.C., DC

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