Alumni Spotlight: Ryder Damen

Ryder Damen is a Biomedical Science student from Brock University, Canada; currently on exchange in Hong Kong. He likes meeting new people, living in the moment, and trying to change the world.

Man in surgical clothes

Why did you decide to volunteer with Friends for Asia in Thailand?

Ryder: I had been traveling the south of Thailand with a group of friends initially; as great as it was, I wanted to see more of the real Thailand, and real Thai culture. I broke off from the group and headed up North to participate in a couple volunteer projects - one of them being the Friends For Asia Surgical Internship program. In retrospect it feels a lot more rewarding to have spent my time helping others, and learning about real Thai culture, than spending a month on beaches and in touristy areas.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Ryder: As a surgical intern, my day to day activities varied greatly. One day I would be sitting in on a clinical trail discussion, then traveling to a patient's home; while another I would be observing a cesarean section, then watching emergency brain surgery. As great as it was - it made the time fly by, which was the only unfortunate part about it.

What made this experience unique and special?

Ryder: This volunteer experience was made unique to me by the personal contact I was given by the doctors, other volunteers, and patients at the hospital. They took the time to teach me things that I wanted to learn, rather than something just from a textbook. Spending christmas day riding elephants also helped too.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Ryder: Personally, this experience has given me a new appreciation for not only medicine, but for other cultures and languages. I originally had plans to work at home in Canada this summer, but will instead be taking the long way home from my current exchange university - volunteering and backpacking along the way. In terms of how this has impacted me professionally - it provided me insight into the kind of research I'd like to do in the future; studying diseases that are often neglected in Canadian research, but affect millions in other parts of the world.