Reconsidering Place and Purpose

“Traveling teaches people far more than anything else. Sometimes one day spent in other places, gives more than ten years of life at home.” –Anatole France

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Tatiana Afanaseva, M.D., J1 Scholar

I never expected the chance to visit the United States. I was so excited when I received the invitation that I began setting goals for the trip that very day: to become familiar with the health care system and medical education in the United States, to improve my clinical skills and English proficiency, and to adjust to a culturally different environment. I can proudly say that I achieved all these goals, and gained even more than I had expected.

I befriended wonderful doctors from all over the world, including from Vietnam, India, the Dominican Republic, Uganda, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, and Iran, who are very young but mature and talented physicians. We supported one another throughout the program, sharing the experience of medical practice in our respective countries, in addition to our cultures, traditions, and histories. They inspired me to read more about my own country and other places thousands of kilometers away from my home. They inspired me leave my comfort zone.

I worked with physicians and teachers who, despite their many years of experience, are still learning and reading the latest articles to expand their knowledge and to best teach younger colleagues. They are extraordinary teachers, specialists, and role models. They patiently and thoroughly answered questions and enthusiastically explained everything during the rounds. Moreover, I was amazed by their selflessness in working in a free clinic for patients who cannot afford private insurance.

My new friends with their amazing deeds and wonderful plans for the future inspired me to reconsider and adjust my vision of life. These role models included an incredible person with inexhaustible enthusiasm devoting all his life to global health and affecting people’s lives in many states all over the world, a couple improving cardiology practice in resource-limited countries, a doctor working with Americares in distant places, a Kurdish woman helping establish a self-sustainable village in Kenya, and a young physician passionately planning to quit his job in five years to work as a doctor for non-profit organizations in remote villages in Africa. All these people completely changed the way I think about the world, and my place and purpose in it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to improve medicine and medical education in Russia. I am confident that applying the knowledge and experience I gained from this experience will give rise to better medical practice in Kazan. This trip left an indelible mark on my soul and mind. It changed me, I am sure, for the better.

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