Thursday, March 7, 2013

Costa Rica - Panoramas, Patients, INBio Institute, and Talking with the Leaders

Me in front of the main entrance of the forests of the INBio Institute in Costa Rica.
Today was another eventful day. We started the day off by having guided patient interviews with people who have experienced first-hand the care and treatment of both the private and public sectors of the Costa Rican socialized healthcare system. There were a lot of really interesting and engaging stories by patients with good and bad experiences in the healthcare system. I was selected to be one of the interpreter-facilitators for the sessions, which meant that I interpreted for patients as they told their stories, while also facilitating Q&A sessions after patients were finished presenting. The stories were each very involved and would take too long to write out right now, especially considering it's already 11:25pm and I need to get up around 5:00am tomorrow morning. We will be heading northeast to Guanacaste where we will visit an EBAIS before heading on to a resort in Tamarindo!

Julie gets some goods.
Anyway, after the patient experience we stopped by a small market near IHCAI headquarters to get some food. Some got a little more excited than others, turning a quick meal trip into a souvenir extravaganza:

From there, we headed to the INBio Institute, a gigantic nature preserve that has over half a million different species. There, we gained considerable perspective on the biodiversity of the country, and were introduced to the ideas of how biodiversity and the pharmaceutical companies interact. It was a great experience, though fewer of my photos turned out than I had hoped. There's something to be said about the limitations of using a cell phone's camera when trying to photograph nature in varying lighting conditions...

Panoramas will follow the bulk of this post!

After the INBio tour, we headed to a conference held with Dra. Sissy Castillo, the Vice Minister of Health of Costa Rica, and Dr. Rolando Araya-Monge, a former member of the Costa Rican Parliament and founder of the political party, "Alianza Patriotica." Though the talk was a little more scripted than I had anticipated, I appreciated the fact that they gave students an opportunity to ask questions directly to the Vice Minister of Health. Many of the questions that we asked weren't able to be answered directly ("Why aren't physicians employed in the public sector required to sign a non-compete agreement that prohibits them from simultaneously working in the private sector?" and "What is being done to reduce the long wait times that many patients experience in the public health care system?" being just a couple of the questions asked), but that is probably because the answers would be both fairly involved and very politically charged. It was interesting to be able to stick our noses so directly into the situation of Costa Rica's health care system, but it was also important to remember that we are only just learning about this problem, and it is the life's work of these people to figure out how to make this system function the best possible for the Ticos. There's no way we can possibly learn everything about the system, let alone understand everything necessary to enact any sort of effective change. Here is a terrible, digitally-zoomed photo of the participants of the conference:

Dr. Mario Tristan (left), Dra. Sissy Castillo (center), and Dr. Rolando Araya-Monge (right)
After the talk, the IHCAI Foundation's Board of Directors took all of us out to eat at il Pomodoro, an amazing Italian restaurant in downtown San José. The food was amazing, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Even better than the food was the conversation with my fellow classmates. We are growing even closer than I would have expected on this trip, and everyone has been consistently great the whole time! I couldn't be happier with how well a group of 18 people has gotten along with one another.

Here are some interactive panoramas from today and the past few days:

View of a park in Costa Rica.

View of IHCAI headquarters in San José, Costa Rica.

View from the parking lot of one of the hospitals we visited this week.

Med students outside another of the hospitals from this week.

Us and some cool trees at the INBio Institute in Heredia, Costa Rica.

View of the lake/pond with TURLES at the INBio Institute.

View inside the butterfly house at the INBio Institute.


Nicole said...

Great job interpreting! Sounds like that would have been a challenge... And I totally would have been one of those people to turn a grocery shopping trip into a souvenir extravaganza...

Susan said...

Love the pics/panorama. Too bad you're not in any of them!

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