Taking Ultrasound on the Road in Guatemala

Written by Andrew Wojtanowski, OMS IV

Every year, students in the Global Medicine Track travel to medically underserved countries to treat patients with a variety of undiagnosed illnesses. Most recently, Jing Gao, MD, Associate Professor of Ultrasound, led a group of fourth-year students, including myself, to serve patients in several towns surrounding Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Over the course of several weeks, we worked together to see 131 patients with a handheld ultrasound device. One of the most valuable aspects of our work in the ultrasound unit was the element of education.

RVU provides students an important and substantial foundation into the world of ultrasound but naturally has limits in terms of varying patient populations (elderly, pregnant, actually sick, etc.) and sensitive body regions. With the appropriate guidance from Dr. Gao, [we] had the empowering opportunity to translate our anatomical knowledge through the “lens” of ultrasound to explore, assess, and diagnose new regions/disease states that were novel to us through this medium.

During our stay in Guatemala, I worked with other students to host an Ultrasound Symposium, detailing certain cases that were partially managed with this technology. Together, we discussed patient profiles, the use and nuance of ultrasound in each, and the overall management that followed. Having done so better allowed us students to review and assess our treatment of patients, as well as field concerns, questions, and suggestions from our various attending physicians.

By the end of the trip, I saw tremendous growth in the skill and confidence from all the students participating in the ultrasound unit. Even those who started with the most basic understanding of ultrasound grew to a point of thoughtful and dynamic sonographic application by the end of the trip. I am so proud to have worked with such excellent, budding physicians along the way and truly look forward to the future collaboration with every single one.

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