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Ecuadorian Doctor Lauds Spiritual Formation Aspect of Hospital Residency

April 13, 2015

(April 13, 2015 - interview by Ralph Kurtenbach)  Dr. Betzabé Tello, a former resident at Reach Beyond’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ) in Ecuador, will be one of the speakers at the hospital’s annual medical conference, called Jornadas Médicas, April 20-25. She will give a presentation about prenatal education and a holistic approach on child development that integrates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical care. Interviewed in 2013, Dr. Tello talked about her four-year involvement at HVQ and what it has meant in her life. The transcribed/translated interview, published below, has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How did you decide to enter the residency program at HVQ?
The process of deciding on a residency was interesting. For example, I had finished my rural year (a Ministry of Health requirement for all licensed physicians in Ecuador before they can start a practice) and had the option of working at Carlos Andrade Marín Hospital. I also submitted my resumé [at HVQ], knowing that the hospital is strong in teaching.

In spite of the [financial] benefits that Andrade Marín offered [and fewer on-call days], I asked myself, What do I want now? I thought, Well, this is not my time for making money; this is my time for learning. I am in a formative process so I’ll opt for HVQ.

On that very same day, I was called by both institutions. Hmmm, which was I going to choose? I chose HVQ. And then my residency began. What a new experience it was! The first week was terrible because I kept thinking, I’m not going to make it. At the new job it seemed they had pharmaceuticals that I had not dealt with before and protocols with which I wasn’t familiar…. I said to myself, This will take some time to adapt to.

During this time my head resident (Dr. Rodrigo Henríquez) stood by my side, mentoring me. What I really liked was the training right from the beginning. I learned about things such as procedures for handling waste, the hospital uniforms that we wear and other hospital rules. In addition, we had the Bible studies known as “spiritual cardiology.” All of this helped me to adapt much faster.

The environment was totally different from anywhere else that I had worked. I witnessed great teamwork as nurses were helped by senior medical residents who had spent more time at the hospital. Everyone worked together … and I was hooked. I loved it.

What happened then?
I didn’t have much of an idea of what pos grad* (graduate studies) in family medicine were all about, or general practitioner studies. When I started out, I was really thinking about pursuing endocrinology. I gained an understanding of family medicine at HVQ where fellow residents in the emergency room were already diagnosing something like 80 percent of the pathologies coming in. Even though theirs was not a “super-specialized” training, I began to understand that this [the use of clinical skills] was the essence of family medicine. I immediately liked it a lot, so I decided to pursue the graduate degree in family medicine.

Then, during my third year of residency, I was appointed as chief resident. After an additional year of working in that role—I had held all the other positions that HVQ could offer, from graduate work to being chief resident—I was able to look after my fellow residents’ needs. Each time someone new entered the residency program, I was able to help them learn the standards and adjust to the patient load. I always came alongside to encourage them. Many of them are now pursuing graduate-level studies.

I think I’ve given back a little of what I’ve received. I liked it a lot at the hospital. It has always been a different kind of hospital. Because, as I mentioned earlier, the atmosphere is pleasant despite the pressures of the patient load. And what makes the difference—which I did not understand in the beginning—is that you begin with Bible readings each morning. But I realized that I really could not read the Bible. That is to say, I had never read the Bible.

Recently I began to understand the meaning of certain things. The training at the hospital is comprehensive, holistic. It’s not only our academic training but also the spiritual part that builds you up. And then you can help your patients. The tools that the hospital offers include such studies as “The Saline Solution” [about sharing one’s faith as a medical professional.] I had not heard of that study before. It helped me a great deal when I was on a rotation at Hospital SOLCA (Sociedad de Lucha Contra el Cáncer del Ecuador or Ecuadorian Society for the Fight Against Cancer), working with patients who no longer had any hope.

They and their families were in grave situations, crises. And the only tool I had was that course; it’s not something that they teach you at university. I see it as a tool that is underreported in scientific articles, yet it was very useful for me in coming alongside patients in critical times. I could offer them something important—something that physicians can offer in those times, which was my experience. What I mean is that physicians focus on the academic, which is important. But so is the spiritual.

Tell me about your continued involvement at HVQ through Jornadas Médicas.
I see Jornadas Médicas as a very rich process of continuing medical education, a process that I really enjoy. I also have enjoyed getting involved in [leading] workshops. Stress accompanies getting prepared for a good topic as some experts in that very field might be in attendance. So one needs to prepare for the questions that might come. For one, two, three months in advance you’re preparing your topic by reading a lot of information. Beyond that, you’re also learning public speaking. It’s a complete process. Having done this on three occasions, I hope that organizers of Jornadas Médicas continue to invite me. I’d like to contribute with something that I learned at the hospital.

Dr. Tello now coordinates the Comprehensive Child Development Strategy for Ecuador’s Ministry of Public Health and is an associate professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador) in Quito. “Even though I no longer work [at HVQ], it is always a pleasure to participate in the activities of the hospital,” she said.

*Pos grado specialization exists only in some countries. Variance among the programs exists, but all seek to further knowledge and professional skills and put them to use. While demands are often less academically rigorous than for a master’s degree, medicine is an exception as specializations have specific regulations. Dr. Tello’s pos grado work was rewarded with a specialization in family medicine.

Sources: Reach Beyond, El Comercio


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