Category Archives: Student Spotlight

How the World Changed Me in Argentina

One of the best ways to get to know CFHI is through the experiences of the students who attend our programs.  Below is a story from Southern California student, Daniel Sarkissian.
About Daniel
I am a third year neuroscience major at UCLA. I currently do clinical research at the Neuromodulation Division of the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior and volunteer at the UCLA hospital as a Care Extender. After graduation, I plan to take a gap year, during which I will apply to medical schools across the United States. Going into medicine has always been my life goal, and when my biology professor told me about this program and how I would gain valuable clinical exposure, I knew this was meant for me.
Why he chose CFHI
I chose the Hospital Medicine program in Córdoba, Argentina because I wanted to gain clinical exposure shadowing surgical procedures and to explore the beautiful sight s in Argentina. My experience of volunteering at the emergency room is what made me strive to attend this CFHI program, as I wanted to expand my knowledge of global health, how hospitals are run in other parts of the world, and to enhance my Spanish skills. Southern California has a large population of Spanish speaking people, which is also why I chose to go to Argentina, as I would be forced to get out of my comfort zone and speak Spanish on a daily basis. When I first began volunteering at the emergency room at the local hospital in Glendale, CA, one of my notable experiences was translating Armenian, as that is my native language. Seeing this language barrier is also why I decided to go to Argentina, as I would improve my Spanish skills and have a larger outreach to people who do not speak English. The Spanish lessons, both the one on one and the group session, greatly improved my Spanish communication skills. My experience with the Hospital Medicine program in Córdoba was at the Hospital Pediatrico del Niño Jesus, where I gained experience in general pediatric care, surgical procedure, and radiology. I observed over 30 surgical procedures which taught me more about different disabilities and conditions while learning about human anatomy underlying each procedure. I departed Argentina with improved Spanish skills, a greater understanding of their healthcare system and a greater drive to pursue my medical career in surgery.
Reflection on what’s next
The four weeks I spent in Córdoba were undoubtedly the most enlightening four weeks of my life. The general pediatrics unit taught me where to check with a stethoscope for various conditions. When I was shadowing surgeries, some doctors responded to questions and explained the procedure. After seeing all these surgeries and how big an impact each surgery has on the patients’ lives, it reinforced my ambition to become a surgeon. This experience also drove my lifelong ambition to work with Doctors Without Borders, to further broaden my understanding of other cultures and deliver healthcare to all of those who need it. CFHI gave me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the surgical field and this experience of learning medicine in a totally different culture is invaluable to my future.

Student Spotlight: Ariel

For our newest Student Spotlight we introduce CFHI Alumni Ariel from California. In June this year Ariel chose our program Healthcare Challenges with focus on Hospital & Inpatient Medicine, HIV/AIDS and Global Health Nursing. She went to Cape Town in South Africa for 5 Weeks. A few months after her return, we asked for a short reflection on her adventure:



CFHI Alumni Ariel in South Africa

A little about Ariel:

I am a third year biological sciences major at UC Davis. After graduating from Davis I want to pursue a career in health by becoming a nurse practitioner or PA. Studying abroad was one of the experiences I was most excited for when I came to college. When I heard about an internship abroad opportunity through CFHI it seemed like the perfect fit.


Why she chose CFHI:

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I chose CFHI for a number of important reasons to me. First, I wanted to experience living in a new country to really understand the culture and daily lives of another part of the world. I chose Cape Town because the city seemed like such a lively place with so much to do and so much history to learn about regarding Apartheid. The best way to truly get a feeling for another way of life is to immerse yourself in the country’s culture. I had never been to Africa so I was super excited to learn about a new continent and compare the healthcare challenges with the ones we face in the States. Also, volunteering at Community Day Centers and observing procedures at a pediatric hospital in Cape Town were unlike any other opportunities I had had in the past. Through CFHI, I was able to witness healthcare first hand and be a part of a typical day for physicians right in the middle of the action.

What is next for Ariel:

Taking part in a CFHI program opened my eyes to the different fields of medicine and global healthcare. Before I went to Cape Town, I thought I was set on going into nursing. After going through rounds with med students, watching surgeries, and attending lectures and tutorials, the experience influenced me to consider a PA program. Also, it confirmed my inclination that I want to work in pediatrics. I plan on becoming involved with one of the student run clinics at UC Davis to get more experience with patients. If I was given the opportunity after I become licensed, I would definitely work in a hospital in another country for a longer period of time.

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CFHI Student Spotlight: Ross – Reproductive Health, Quito Ecuador

CFHI student spotlight showcases students who have been and are working in one of our many programs . This is a feature where we highlight the students’ experience, if you would like to be featured please contact CFHI’s outreach director Keaton Andreas via email 


Ross is involved in Pace University’s Physician Assistant program. He is interested in Women’s Health, Primary care/preventative medicine, and pediatrics. He selected the Reproductive Health rotation in Quito, Ecuador, because he is around spanish speaking patients back at home and wants to be able to speak to his patients in whatever language that makes them most comfortable.




  1. What school did/do you go to?  Pace University’s Physician Assistant Program
  2. How did you hear about CFHI? It’s the international rotation provider my school works with.
  3. What areas are you interested in regarding medicine? Women’s Health, primary care/preventative medicine, pediatrics
  4. What program are you in and how did you determine that was the right one for you? Reproductive Health rotation in Quito Ecuador;  I selected this program based on my interest in reproductive health and my desire to improve my medical Spanish.  I live in NYC, where many patients only speak Spanish, and I want to be able to speak to my patients in whatever language makes them most comfortable.
  5. What were your expectations for the trip and how have those matched up with reality? My expectations were that the rotations would be largely observation with the opportunity to take histories and present patients in order to practice discussing patients in Spanish.  My expectations have been surpassed.  I have rotated through very different locations in OB/GYN, emergency medicine, and primary care, giving me exposure to a diversity of medical situations.  
  6. What has been the best part of your experience so far? The best part is definitely the cultural immersion, which also happens to be the most difficult part.  The discomfort of being in a totally new place is what forces you to adapt.  It is absolutely the reason my Spanish has improved so much.
  7. Who are you working with? Depending on the location, I have mostly worked with the attendings.  At one of the sites, I was matched with a resident, which was a nice opportunity, as they usually do more procedures.
  8. What is the overall goal of your program? My overall goal was to improve my medical Spanish.
  9. What is your overall goal? What do you want to accomplish through your program? Same ^ [Same answer as the previous question]
  10. What are some cultural things you have learned? The primary cultural difference I have noticed, at least medically, is that family is prioritized by patients over everything, including privacy.  This is definitely different in the U.S.  We learn that in order to get an honest history it is best to talk to the patient alone.  That is often not an option here.  It is interesting that people have such a level of comfort regarding their personal medical details, definitely surprising at times.