La Vida Mexicana - A Spanish Medical Experience by Ethan Tomlinson
Dolores Hidalgo and La Lejona
Origins and Destinations
Before leaving for Mexico this past summer, I had
already been exploring the Spanish language through my
coursework at UofL and my first enrichment project in
Panama and Costa Rica. In hopes of furthering my
fluency and Spanish written and oral skills, I set off for
Mexico for a six-week adventure in San Miguel de
Allende, an arts and cultural hub, UNESCO World
Heritage Site, and popular retirement spot in the province
of Guanajuato, Mexico.
Not only did I become more fluent in Spanish this
past summer but also, I learned a great deal about
emergency, clinical, and folkloric medicine, Mexican
culture, and the intercultural exchange inherent in
performing medical work in another country. This
experience was exactly what I had hoped for when I
decided I wanted to return to a Spanish-speaking country
while exploring the field of medicine, and I cannot say
thank you enough to the Brown Fellows Program and the
University of Louisville for their
support, encouragement, and assistance.
Working in the emergency room at Dolores Hidalgo General
Hospital and the clinic in La Lejona provided an interesting contrast
between medical procedure in a hospital versus a general clinic and a
stark look at the realities of being a physician. Despite the occasional
stressful situation, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience.
The Red Cross
• At the clinic, I was called upon to perform the majority of the physical
evaluations while being advised and instructed by the physician I was
Notwithstanding the diversity of my clinicals, my service at
the Red Cross was by and large my favorite aspect of the trip for
a number of reasons.
• In the emergency room at Dolores Hidalgo, I encountered a variety of
ailments and chronic illnesses, some of which were fatal. During my
overnight shifts, I was called upon to assist in suturing. I set several
casts and splints and performed CPR on one patient. One of my
shifts was also spent in the obstetrics ward where I observed a
number of procedures including a Cesarean section.
• The nature of emergency medicine and ambulance service
calls is exciting. Every call is unique and necessitates different
strategies, medication, medical knowledge, etc.
• I was fortunate enough to work at the Red Cross 50-60% of the
time that I was in San Miguel. Over the span of six weeks, I
learned a good deal about commonly-encountered illnesses
and chronic conditions and was able to get “hands-on”
experience in handling medical and trauma patients.
• Without a doubt, both of these rotations increased my knowledge of
medical Spanish terminology and of commonly-encountered medical
problems and the appropriate treatments.
• Working alongside Mexican paramedics offered significant
insight into Mexican culture, language (especially medical
terminology), and alternative methods in emergency medicine
(e.g. equipment, medication, certification to perform certain
While in Mexico, I took a First Responder course, an
advanced Spanish course, and a number of classes where
folkloric medicine, medical Spanish terminology, and Mexican
cultural beliefs and traditions were discussed. As a result:
• I was able to reinforce my progress in the Spanish language in
a “classroom” setting while practicing and learning daily in the
city of San Miguel.
A New Perspective
While my trip to Mexico shared some goals with my
previous stays in Panama and Costa Rica, I traveled this summer
with an additional objective of chief importance: exploration of the
field of medicine. This purpose was achieved in several diverse
settings each with unique circumstances, protocols, and
1. A First Responder course taught by two American EMTs
2. A clinical rotation at the Red Cross in San Miguel
3. A clinical rotation at the general hospital in Dolores Hidalgo
4. A clinical rotation at the general clinic in La Lejona
• I began to identity the opinions of the Mexican people
concerning their world in areas such as faith, politics,
education, medicine, technology, socialization, and more.
• I learned how to take vital signs, perform tasks suited for a
basic EMT, identify common illnesses, evaluate emergency
situations, and perform basic life support.
The Gringo in México
When I wasn’t strolling through San Miguel in scrubs on my way to
work or class, I was able to enjoy being a tourist in one of the most
beautiful and historic cities in all of Mexico. Some of my favorite sites
Balneario Escondido Place (hot spring!)
El Templo de la Cañada de la Virgen
The Rosewood Hotel
El Instituto Allende
El Parque Benito Juárez