Winter 2017 - Articles

An Auburn Student in Peru

By January 10, 2018 No Comments
An Auburn Student in Peru

Third-year pharmacy student Lauren Speakman spent five weeks interning in South America, and quickly realized her work wasn’t the only source of wisdom.

Lauren Speakman may not have been expecting to intern in a hospital in Arequipa, Peru, but she was expecting to take advantage of the final summer before her fourth-year rotations start in the Harrison School of Pharmacy.

“I wanted to do something this summer that would help me grow professionally and help me get pharmacy experience. At the same time, I looked for an opportunity for travel and just something unique,” Speakman said. “I wanted to find something outside the box and something that would push me.”

Speakman grew up in Auburn, but decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in nutrition dietetics at Samford before focusing on pharmacy.

“It was kind of the best of both worlds to me. I moved to Samford and got that moving away experience. Now I’m back in Auburn and finally being a student — doing the big football scene and all that,” Speakman said.

Arequipa is just under 500 miles away from Lima, the capital of Peru. The second-most populated city in the country, volcanoes form the skyline as the Andes Mountains run north and south.

The Chili river flows through the city. Restaurants and businesses form an urban atmosphere much like what Americans are used to seeing every day, according to Speakman.

She spent five weeks over the summer interning with Work the World, a United Kingdom-based company dedicated to organizing healthcare internships.

Waking up before 7 a.m. in a house filled with other medical students from across the globe, Speakman would then walk to Hospital Goyeneche. She spent the day shadowing doctors as they made their rounds and helping patients anyway she could.

“My favorite department was oncology, so I was really focused on that,” Speakman said. “I would be there to listen and try to practice my Spanish and listen to what the doctors were saying. We would walk from one patient’s bed to another’s, talking about what was going on with their care and the nurses would give updates to the patients.”

Among the differences Speakman noticed between American and Peruvian healthcare was one issue in particular she wasn’t expecting.

“They didn’t have private rooms in the hospital like we do in the U.S,” Speakman said. “All patients are in one room, so there’s no privacy as we’re walking from bed to bed talking about these patients. There’s no patient privacy.”

Because of the various patient-privacy laws in the U.S., Speakman said it was something that would never be seen
at home.

“It’s definitely something that didn’t faze them and a situation I had to go into with an open mind,” Speakman said. “Knowing that we have our way of doing it here in the U.S. and everyone in all these different countries have other ways
of doing things, I had to go in with an open mind knowing
I’m not here to change the way they do things. I’m just here
to learn about the way they do it and about global health.”

Hospital Goyeneche was built in 1912, and Speakman said
it is more rudimentary than other hospitals in the city.

“It was a place where people who couldn’t afford healthcare could go. Because the healthcare was freely provided, it was just not great conditions,” Speakman said. “Not every hospital in Peru is like that, I just happened to be at a more primitive one.”

Lauren Speakman Photos

Shifts at the hospital ended at noon each day, and after that, Speakman and the other interns explored the city and the surrounding country side. She took dance classes twice a week and began making friends with the locals.

Buses were a convenient choice of transportation, so Speakman visited several well-known areas, including Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon.

“You’re kind of learning culture on culture because we’re getting used to the Peruvian culture, and at the same time I was learning about culture from my friends in the U.K., Australia, Denmark and Australia — all these cool places,” Speakman said.

Speakman plans on pursuing a residency after graduation, but hopes to keep international involvement a priority.

“I hope in the long run and in my pharmacy practice that I am able to do pharmacy internationally. That might mean short term mission trips where I go and serve in Spanish speaking countries or I would even be open to moving abroad for a longer period of time,” Speakman said. “I know that I have a strong interest in international experiences and global health and aiding underserved communities and pharmacies.”

by Robert Lee ’14