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An Experience Less Ordinary

Upon my arrival to Antigua, my father and I headed straight to visit the location where I would be spending my days in classes and anatomy lab, better known as West Campus. With only a few classrooms and a few benches around, I remember thinking this place was strictly business. Luggage in hand, my father and I spoke to the security guard and I learned the correct pronunciation for Antigua according to the locals.

Following my first lesson in Antigua, we searched out a hotel to spend the first night as my orientation was the following day. I remember walking the five-minute trip from the hotel to the beach and talking to my father about his own experience in medical school. The waves were crashing in and the stars were out. Little did I know how much these two gifts from nature would be the key to me finding peace in between the stresses of medical school!

The next day, I moved into housing. I was beyond satisfied with the size of our apartment and the view from the third story is one I still am forever grateful to have had. My roommate and I even moved the couch out of the living room and onto the balcony because we preferred the view for our reading assignments location. We quickly became inseparable as we spent our mornings walking to campus, sat together in classes, and quizzed each other to stay ahead. My most memorable moment from my first semester remains the day I held a human brain in my two hands. An experience I cannot adequately describe in words. However, I can say that I literally felt the weight of the career path that lay in store for me. My first year was exactly what I expected – books and notes in hand at all times.

Moving to the new and current campus, I felt as if I was being rewarded. The library, better known as my second home, was huge. Given that studying was a daily routine, I was thankful for the size of the new library because it offered me multiple locations to change study spots when I became bored with current ones. A typical day for me included walking along Jabberwock beach to campus, purchasing a large coffee and delicious breakfast sandwich from the sandwich booth on campus, attending class, getting a workout in, and spending the remainder of my day studying. The study rooms became the late night ICM practice location for my classmates and I. Looking back on it, I am surprised the tables did not break given the number of times they were converted into “exam tables.” Another fond memory of mine is the auditorium.

During my second year, I was positioned as President of the American Medical Student Association for AUA. Dean Dr. Nagra and I worked with the rest of my AMSA board to hold the first event in the auditorium. The event was to discuss the responsibilities and expectations of those who represent the “White Coat.” The speeches gave me goosebumps and I was very proud of my school for emphasizing professionalism in such an impacting manner. To further this claim, take the Health Fair for example.

As Health Fair coordinator, I worked closely with Dr. Fraser, Dr. Chobanyan, and Vernon Solomon to revamp the event. We moved the Health Fair away from the market and into an event hall, united with JCI, Mount St. John’s Medical Centre, and the AIDS Secretariat (Ministry of Health), and made the event mandatory for ICM students. This meant that we were able to serve more locals, educate visitors on health, conduct HIV testing and sign people up for blood donations for the Hospital. The students’ roles provided the following: patient history taking, vital signs, BMI recordings, glucose testing, eye exams with a local Antiguan ophthalmologist, education section for patients, and finished with a presentation of each patient to Antiguan doctors. That year we served 353 people and now the Health Fair is currently a two-day event.

One thing I must note is the staff, faculty and office staff, and workers on campus. Everyone made living far from home very easy for me and they always made me laugh during great conversations. Antiguans are very approachable. Take for instance my cab driver that I frequented for trips to the grocery store. He was such an honest and humble man. That being said, humbleness is the biggest lesson I learned in medical school. Humble is what Antigua is! When people ask me about my medical experience in Antigua, I reply, “I was a pale person living in paradise and I would do it again.”

by Elena Zamora, Class of 2013