EL PASO, Texas - While attending New Mexico State University, Oscar Ruben Velasquez Jr. had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Guatemala to practice medicine in a rural community.
Participating in the NMSU Global Brigades, a chapter for students interested in medicine, Velasquez was able to take his interests to another country and serve the underdeveloped community of Agua Escondida in the south-central region of the country. He was there Dec. 12-18, 2021.
Velasquez and 14 fellow chapter members had to fundraise for all of the trip's expenses, including transportation, accommodations, and meals. But for Velasquez, the experience he got in Guatemala was worth the price.
"When we arrived in the community, many of the members were already there waiting to be seen by us and we were welcomed with an applause. As if we were there to save them and they gave us such a warm welcome. They were happy we were there," Velasquez said.
The NMSU Global Brigade students were not able to physically touch the patients, but they could observe how both Guatemalan and Honduran physicians take care of their patients. They presented information on common diseases and illnesses in the community. They also provided the medicine physicians had prescribed for the patients in a local pharmacy. Velasquez shared how the Guatemalan and Honduran doctors were very different from United States doctors.
"Their approach was very different from the United States. In the United States, doctors usually typically see something and do a lab test. But over there in Guatemala, the doctors don't have those certain technologies, and they can't do lab tests, so they have to use another approach and that's an observational approach...whatever comes to mind, and what they see physically that's what they prescribe over there," said Velasquez.
Velasquez emphasized that any student who has an opportunity to travel or study medicine in an atypical situation should do it, no matter what.
For his accomplishment, Ruben Velasquez Jr. is this week's ABC-7 Community Champion.
Community Champions is sponsored by Albertsons and the El Paso Community Foundation.