¡Bon dia! My name is Cameron Goff and I study biochemistry at UT. In my first blog, I mentioned that I would be spending the summer working at a hospital here in Barcelona. However, I had only just begun my internship, so I only mentioned it in passing. Now, a month later, I want to talk about what I’m doing here in Barcelona, but first I want to discuss why I decided to participate in this program.
I was born and raised in Austin, so I’ve spent most of my life within the Austin city limits. It wasn’t until the summer of 2014, when I went to Ecuador with Amigos de Las Américas, that I spent any meaningful time outside Austin. Through the program, I spent 7 weeks living in a rural community in the Ecuadorian Andes. While there, I was immersed in the local culture, ran a summer camp for the local youth, and collaborated with my community on launching a micro-enterprise run by the local youth. The experience gave me an appreciation for the benefits of cultural exchange, as well as the importance of broadening your perspective.
During my freshman year at UT, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I did what all pre-med students do: I started volunteering at a hospital, shadowing doctors, and stressing about my GPA. I’d only ever viewed the medical field through the lens of a patient. Through volunteering and shadowing, I have been able to expand my perspective and confirm that medicine was the career for me. However, I wasn’t completely satisfied and my time in Ecuador during high school left me with a desire to go back, so last summer I spent a month in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, shadowing doctors throughout the city. I shadowed in a couple of hospitals, a primary care clinic, and a traditional medicine clinic. The country has a rapidly improving universal healthcare system that was fascinating to learn about and observe, and the experience gave me an interest in public health that I hope to explore while in medical school. Perhaps most interesting to me was their policy on opioids. Both due to price and fear of addiction they avoid prescribing opioids unless absolutely necessary, a stark contrast to the U.S. where we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic.
For a while, I have wanted to study abroad in Spain so that I could further improve my Spanish, but at this point in my degree, there weren’t any classes I could get credit for abroad. So, instead of taking some classes that I didn’t need just so I could spend a summer in Spain, I applied to UT’s Barcelona internship program. My main goal this summer was to once again gain a new perspective on healthcare. After being accepted and telling the internship coordinators about my interest in medicine and public health, they did a great job of finding me an internship at Hospital El Pilar in Barcelona, which has exceeded my expectations.
While Spain has a public healthcare system, the hospital itself is private. The main benefit of going to a private hospital (which requires private insurance or for you to pay out of pocket) is a reduction in wait times, since non-emergent, and elective procedures especially can have very long wait times. My official job is in the international patient care department. The purpose of the department (just a few people including me) is to guide international patients through their stay so that their only concern is their health. Among other things, we provide translation when necessary (I’m on English duty), coordinate with cruise lines to get patients approved to re-board the boat, we help with cancelling or changing flight and hotel reservations, and most importantly we deal with the insurance. Since we are a private hospital, we need to get payment before the patient leaves, so whenever possible we try to get a guarantee of payment from the insurance company before the patient is discharged. If we can’t, then the patient must pay and ask their insurance company for reimbursement later. Luckily, healthcare costs here are generally lower than in the US, so there are rarely issues with paying.
But, that’s the boring part of my internship. The workload largely depends on how often international patients come in, so when we have a slow day my supervisor finds me shadowing opportunities. I’ve been all over the hospital and have gotten to observe many interesting procedures, including numerous surgeries. The other day, I watched a hernia repair and when the surgeon finished, he said, “just like in the US, no?” I’ve had the opportunity to observe three different medical systems across three different continents. They all have their pros and cons, but despite the differences in how the healthcare systems are structured, the medicine itself doesn’t change. A hernia repair is a hernia repair whether it’s in Spain, Ecuador, the US, or wherever… it just might be more expensive in the US.
This post was contributed by Cameron Goff, a 2018 Global Ambassador.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Cameron’s experience in Spain>>