Neev Gamble ‘25 (neuroscience and behavior) was funded through an Experiencing the World Fellowship to travel to Ecuador to work on her project, “Community Engagement with Health Care Systems in Urban and Rural Ecuador”.

The first week was filled with uncertainties and adjustment. I found myself being hesitant and wary of my surroundings. Not wanting to make myself uncomfortable, I strayed away from potentially awkward situations by letting the native Spanish speaker medical student, who was also shadowing, take the lead with the doctor. I resorted to my quiet, younger self, comfortable in the shadows. I think it was part of my adjustment period. I was absorbing a lot, and it was exciting, but overwhelming. By the end of the first week, though, I had realized I was not pushing myself to my best ability. I wanted to get the most out of the short time I had here, so I changed my mindset for the next week. The second week, my goal was to push the boundaries and step out of my comfort zone. I asked more questions — even if it wasn’t perfect Spanish — I tried more foods, and I made new friends. I made a conscious effort to insert myself into positions so that I could get the most out of the position I was in. And I’m thankful for that — the second week I was able to learn so much about urban Ecuadorian dentistry practices, including their different types of procedures, as well as more general information such as parts of the tooth and the differences between the careers in the dental field. Rather than shadowing one doctor, I was able to shadow all the different oral doctors work together in one building, including endodontists, orthodontists, general dentists, and cosmetic dentists. One dental student took me under her wing and showed me different ways to practice fillings on fake teeth, how to hold a suction tube, and different types of dental procedures — all in Spanish. Although I saw the similarities between Ecuadorian and American practices, it was neat to see their unique aspects of running a practice, their communication styles, interaction with patients, and methods of surgery. I learned a lot that week and it solidified my interest both in dentistry and learning about healthcare practices in other parts of the world.

This second week is when I really started diving deep into my research. After expressing an interest in dental/oral health rotations, I was placed into two dental rotations this month. I’m researching Ecuador’s healthcare system, looking at the differences between rural and urban settings, with an oral healthcare focus. I’ve been interviewing and having discussions with several people in my environment, such as my driver to my clinical rotations, several doctors and dentists, dentistry students, my homestay mother, and others. In addition, I’m using online databases and scientific journals to expand on what I’ve learned in the field. I’m working on synthesizing my thoughts and researching into a project/presentation that I will present at the end of the month to fellow members on the trip and the staff here.

I feel very lucky to be in this position and to be able to learn about people that are so different, yet in many ways very similar, to me. It’s amazing to see the differences in the ways people communicate, eat, interact, and generally live life. It’s opened my eyes to the world around me and made me realize that the world is bigger than just my hometown, my college town, or the United States. There are so many different cultures out there for us to experience, be aware of and learn from, and I am so grateful to be in a position where I am able to grasp as much new knowledge as possible in this beautiful country. This type of experience is not something I would able to obtain from a classroom setting, and every day I’m grateful that I get to be in this position!