Medical Fellows: Pre-Med/Global Health Program in Guatemala

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The Medical Fellows program gives recent graduates the opportunity to work alongside physicians, nurses and community health workers while experiencing the challenges and opportunities present in global settings.

The program is meant for college graduates (of any major) interested in volunteering abroad in underserved healthcare settings. Fellows live and work in Guatemala but will travel frequently to Belize and the USA. We offer flexible program start dates and lengths.

GPSA works in villages surrounding the city of Quetzaltenango in the western highlands of Guatemala. The villages are inhabited by mestizo, Maya-Mam and Maya-K’iche’ peoples. While Spanish is widely spoken, many families speak a Mayan language at home as well. Mayan culture is in display everywhere, but Catholic celebrations and rituals are also very prominent. Fellows will learn more about this mixed cultural heritage and provide free health services to locals.

  • Work at local health center alongside community health workers, nurses and doctors.
  • Get first-hand experience addressing health disparities in underserved areas. Receive training, deliver medical care and implement health projects.
  • Improve your Spanish by living with a host family in villages outside of Xela and receiving one-on-one language lessons.
  • Be a leader and mentor the next generation of healthcare professionals.
  • We offer flexible program start dates and program lengths to accommodate your future plans (med school or grad school).

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Questions & Answers


based on 2 reviews
  • Housing 9
  • Support 6.5
  • Fun 7
  • Value 10
  • Safety 7.5
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My Experience as a GPSA Medical Fellow

I did the GPSA Medical Fellow program this past year (May 2017-June 2018). I lived in a rural, indigenous town called Zunil, about 30 minutes outside of Xela, Guatemala. I decided to take a gap year before applying to medical school in order to gain more clinical experience, step away from the books, explore my passion for global health, and grow/mature. I was immediately intrigued by GPSA because it would allow me to live (with a host family) in a town and work in the health center as well as give me the opportunity to learn more Spanish. The program also was a year long which I believe is an adequate amount of time to really learn (especially the language) and make an impact.

Working in the health clinic and health posts gave me the opportunity to provide services that truly met a need in the community. Much of the work I did was related to glucose testing which wasn't normally available. I learned the challenges and skills for developing and implementing successful interventions. I also gained great experience in patient contact. It was an amazing feeling to integrate into a community and gain the trust of patients. Being a member of the health team exposed me to community health/outreach and the efforts put forth to increase healthcare access.

Living in Zunil was nothing short of amazing. I loved having the opportunity to live in an indigenous town with an amazing family. My host family became my real family and I will be connected to them for the rest of my life. Living in the area where I worked allowed me to understand the lifestyle as well as allowed everyone to become familiar with me. There is such value in building rapport and transitioning from outsider to community member.

GPSA service-learning programs gave me the opportunity to build mentorship skills and work with/influence the next generation. Also the program locations allowed me to experience community health in West Virginia and Belize. Being able to have a cross-cultural, multi-country experience was truly unique. The programs were one of the more demanding/challenging parts of the medical fellow position, but nevertheless rewarding.

Guatemala is such a beautiful country and an amazing place to be. The medical fellow position truly has a lot to offer as long as you are willing to go out of your comfort zone, be independent, be flexible, and learn! I grew so much from being a medical fellow and gained experiences that will greatly benefit me as a doctor and in life.

How can this program be improved?
Provide more support to the medical fellows throughout their time in Guatemala.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Medical Fellow 2017 - 2018 Review

Hi there! I was a Medical Fellow with GPSA from May 2017 - June 2018. I joined the organization after graduating from Duke University because I wanted to explore my interests in global and public health before applying to medical school. I was placed in a rural town in Guatemala, where I worked with the local government health clinic on public health projects. I also served as a team leader for groups of high school students who came on GPSA programs.

My favorite part about this program was living with my host family. I truly view them as my family now and I always will. Living with a host family helped integrate me into the community, accelerated my learning of Spanish, and gave me a a place to call home for the year.

Working with the clinic was a challenging and rewarding experience. I learned so much about how to develop projects and how to work in a team with a diverse group of people. It was also fascinating to be part of a system that puts so much effort on community projects and education in order to improve public health. This aspect of the job requires a strong ability to work independently!

I also loved loved loved working as a team leader on programs in Guatemala and Belize. These programs are FUN. Many of the high school students I led were inspiring and amazing young people, and it was a privilege to be their mentor and to help guide them during such an important stage of their lives.

Overall I would definitely recommend this program! I grew so much as a person, gained many valuable skills, had some wonderful experiences, and made some really good friends along the way :)

Yes, I recommend this program

About Global Public Service Academy for Health

GPSA was founded with an understanding that young adults can make a difference in the world. Through collaboration with local health authorities in Guatemala, Belize and West Virginia, USA, our volunteers and fellows make a lasting difference in the...