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Hauling my stuff around Antigua for the day

In the months leading up to my trip to Guatemala, my friends were so curious about what the experience would be like. They were constantly asking me to share the research I had done on different Spanish schools, and were even more excited when they heard that $200 USD per week would pay for school tuition, accommodation, and food. Too good to be true? I promised a full review at the end of the month, so here goes.

One-liner. Studying Spanish in Guatemala was a fantastic experience that I would wholeheartedly recommend and repeat.

School. The school I chose is called Pop Wuj, located in Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela), Guatemala. I chose the school because of its popular medical Spanish program, though in the end I decided to participate in the standard immersion program instead. I also chose the school because it is a well-established, non-profit organization involved in interesting community projects. …

I spent my January rotating on palliative medicine. One of my main goals of the rotation was to be able to explain what palliative medicine is, so here I go.

Technically, palliative medicine is a field whose purpose is to relieve suffering in all of its domains — physical, emotional, and spiritual — in people with life-limiting illness. The intention is to treat the symptoms (but not necessarily the disease itself) of very sick people, with the overarching goal of improving quality of life.

Practically, much of what we do is to treat physical pain and help patients prepare to die gracefully, whatever that means to them. We listen to their broad goals and try to make plans that respect those goals. If a patient’s heart were to stop due to her illness, would it be better to resuscitate her or not? Would she want to be kept alive using machines? …

20 Dec 2017

Over the past few months, I have been on the residency interview trail. I have completed ten of my thirteen interviews so far, and the experience has forced me to critically reflect on my values. How should I choose a residency program? Location is an obvious factor, but how should I prioritize the other factors, such as academic caliber, program mission and culture, patient population, resident wellness, commute, and other benefits like nice health insurance or subsidized housing? What really matters to me?

I was in a group interview this week where we were asked to discuss and design a theoretical, ideal healthcare system. After the activity, we discussed the determinants of health — what factors actually influence a person’s chronic disease status or her life expectancy? …

I have spent the past month taking an elective course in integrative medicine. Preventative health and nutrition have always been interests of mine, but it’s been a few years since I’ve taken up study of the latest fad diets. Over the past decade, I have developed a strong skepticism of the immensely powerful food industry and have become aware of the undeniable lobbying strength it has in our government. Historically, Big Food caused the government to distribute biased dietary recommendations (remember when fat was evil but sugar was fine?). …

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on long-acting reversible contraception. During the workshop, I learned how to insert an intrauterine device (IUD), which is a small T-shaped device that is placed into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are one of the most effective types of contraception available, and once inserted prevent pregnancy for three to ten years depending on the model.

What I didn’t fully understand though was exactly how much we put women though to get the damn things all the way up into their uteruses. …


Alexa Chavez

Medical student, feminist, lover of CrossFit and coffee

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