Our Experiences

“Ecuador is a beautiful country surrounded by pristine natural scenery, i.e. mountains, volcanoes, natural lakes, and tropical rainforest. In addition to the fantastic view, the Ecuadorian culture is rich and diverse. Their culture is shaped by its geography, spanning from the equator to the Amazon basin to the Andean highlands. The Ecuadorian culture is a mix of all the indigenous villages covering the mainland to the highlands. After my first mission trip to this beautiful country in 2019, I knew I had to return. The success of our trip was due to the contributions of the new and returning attendings, physician assistants, medical students, pharmacists, and pharmacy students, most importantly, our in-country coordinator, Dr. Jeanette Heredia, who works continuously with the federal and local health departments on our behalf. During our trip, we were able to deliver medical and dental services to the people who live in rural and indigenous regions. Some of these indigenous communities lack access to healthcare. During clinic days, the Ecuadorian people were always welcoming and were never reluctant to show their appreciation to us for taking the time to listen to them and perform an appropriate physical exam. In most of the communities we visited, the people worked in agriculture and lived in high altitude. We were able to provide sunglasses and sunscreen for protection from the sun. Additionally, we performed talks and skits, also known as “Charlas.” The goal of these talks was to ensure sustainability even after we left their communities. We did talks and passed out handouts on breastfeeding, hygiene, nutrition, contraceptives, family planning, and dental care.”
-Rebecca Oyetoro, College of Medicine Class of 2023, Project HEAL 2019 and 2020

“This project meant more to me than one can imagine. It has been among the major influences in my life, helping to guide me in a path of service direct towards the most needy populations.  After participating in this project, I chose to postpone my residency for one year to do a Master’s in Public Health, which thus altered the entire course of my career path.  I returned the following year as a participant of the 2004 trip and it was during this second trip to Ecuador in Spring of 2004 that I met my husband.  We have now been married 6 years and have a 2 year-old and a baby on the way.  Project HEAL was a completely life altering experience for me – both personally and professionally.”– Leila Sabet, College of Medicine Class of 2004, Project HEAL 2003 and 2004

“Project HEAL was not only an amazingly fun way to see Ecuador but it was a major eye opener to the country’s healthcare.  Being from the US, it was challenging to treat the Ecuadorians with very limited resources but it was also humbling to see their enormous appreciation for our help.  They may only see a doctor once or twice a year and it’s wonderful to be able provide them health care during those few times.”– Laura Pabalan, College of Medicine Class of 2011, Project HEAL 2009 and 2010

“I have had the opportunity to travel with Project HEAL to rural Ecuador on two occasions; both experiences were equally humbling and motivating.  I have been reaffirmed in my chosen career path towards becoming a physician and working with both the poor and indigenous populations of the areas that we served has translated into me being more mindful of my patients in the States and the realities that they face.  I am so grateful that I was able to go, and I look forward to returning to Ecuador in the not-too-distant future.”– Sam Davis, College of Medicine Class of 2012, Project HEAL 2009 and 2010

“On our first day of clinic, one of my teammates had come to me in disbelief because one of her adult patients, a member of the Kichwa community, had all sorts of medical problems yet had never seen a doctor in his life. Things like this happened everyday. Project HEAL did not just merely give me practice in performing physical exams and conducting patient interviews. After noticing how many of the chief complaints were easily preventable conditions, it has opened my eyes and taught me the importance of preventative medicine and public health education, and what we can do to start tackling these issues. I have a feeling many of us will strive to be better physicians because of it.”– Alejandra Fuentes, College of Medicine Class of 2013, Project HEAL 2010 and 2011

“You know what it feels like when you can’t catch your breath?  We panted half a mile down a mountain side, on a path narrower than a sidewalk, then slid and stumbled down a sandy slope, all while carrying our luggage and medical supplies.  Some of us had headaches from altitude sickness.  We set up clinic in the sole building with a concrete floor.  During our clinic time, one little boy came to us with wheezing that we diagnosed as asthma.  It turned out that everyone we saw in that community cooked with an open fire in their home, and like cigarette smoke exacerbates asthma so too does wood fire smoke.  It makes you appreciate breathing.”– Aaron Kline, College of Medicine Class of 2011, Project HEAL 2008, 2009, and 2010

“Project HEAL was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only is Ecuador a beautiful country with gorgeous landscapes and delicious food, but Ecuadorians are incredibly warm and loving people who welcomed us to their remote communities and even their homes with open arms and made us feel part of their family. Project HEAL is unique in that we reach and serve very secluded communities that in some cases don’t even have electricity. We were able to provide basic medical and dental services for these communities, and we were also able to identify people with more complicated problems who needed more resources and medical care and connected them with the local health department who followed them throughout the year. People in these communities don’t get access to healthcare often, and it is wonderful to see how appreciative they are for the services that we are able to provide.”– Liliana Bustamante, College of Medicine Class of 2011, Project HEAL 2008, 2009, and 2010

“When preparing for our trip to Ecuador I had visions of our team saving entire communities, altering lives of everyone we met.  Then, after we finished our first day of clinic I was humbled by my experience. I learned how important seemingly simple medical problems are if left unaddressed, and how grateful patients are after receiving a simple treatment I take for granted every day. Even though my initial idea was not accurate I could not be happier with the care we delivered and the impact we had. On a different note I was also amazed by all I learned about the people of Ecuador. I did not visit museums or attend lectures. Instead, I learned by staying with families, eating meals with them, and going to parties they so warmly invited us to. Our daily lives may be different but what makes us all people I found was exactly the same. And moreover, even if someone does not have a lot to offer materially this in no way affects how gracious they are; this made me re-think my own idea of what it means to be welcoming and giving. “– Rebeca Alvarez, College of Medicine Class of 2011, Project HEAL 2009