Joenard's Duke-EWH Summer Institute

Week 1

June 6th, 2012 | Costa Rica, Mid-Trip |

Settling into the Homestay

I arrived in Costa Rica on Tuesday and I got settled into my homestay with my new roommates Alex and Friz. We really enjoy our homestay. Our homestay family has been really helpful to us and has feed us really good Costa Rican food.

Spanish Class

On weekdays of my stay in Costa Rica, I will be taking a Spanish class in the morning and an instrumentation lecture/lab in the afternoon at a school in San Pedro connected with EWH. I was originally placed in the “advanced” level Spanish class. In the first class, the professora expected us to be familiar with most of the indicativo and substantivo tenses (both regular and irregular) as a prerequisite. She then asked if any of us wanted to opt for the “intermediate” level class. I left with 4 other people to the other class which was in another classroom. After the fact, I felt that this was the right choice because I am still rusty with a lot of the intermediate Spanish grammar topics that I took in high school 3 years ago.

I really like how this Spanish class incorporates terminology that we will probably have to use on the job in Nicaragua. When I was first looking at the program, I was a bit worried about how I will be able to help repair the equipment if I wasn’t able to talk to the technicians and doctors in the hospital. I feel like that this class will help mitigate the language barrier and will help me focus on effectively addressing the broken equipment. In addition to this, it will give me opportunity to really probe at the cultures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua so I can obtain a personal connection with these cultures.

I am really excited about this class.

Instrumentation Class

This class trains everyone in the Summer Institute on medical instrumentation. This summer, it is organized by an instructor, Ron, and our On-The-Ground-Coordinator, Cathy. Ron is an engineer in a non-profit company in Canada who tested donated equipment to be sent out to various hospitals. He is also working for EWH in the BMET program in Africa. Cathy was a previous participant of the 2009 Summer Institute and has been to Central America to do non-profit work several times.

The class is structured in such a way that we go through at least 2 medical devices per day as well as one lab per day, Monday through Thursday. Fridays we go to a hospital to see the equipment firsthand and maybe do some practical work as a whole group. For every medical device we go over in the lecture component of the class, we go through:

  1. A description of the device that sums up all of its design inputs.
  2. Different features and controls of the device; basically, how it works.
  3. Common problems with the device.
  4. How to verify the components of each device against the device’s features and design inputs.

So far, we have gone over oxygen concentrators, ventilators, fluid pumps, EKGs, blood pressure machines, pulse oximeters, defibrillators, and infant incubators. These are 8 out of 28 devices that we’re going to cover by the end of the month. It’s a lot of information, but I definitely feel like coming into the program having just taken a BME instrumentation course (as well as my biomaterials and biomechanics courses to a certain extent) was a major advantage for me. I am familiar with most of the electronics already and I feel like most of the information that Ron and Cathy go over is easy to digest. At the same time, devices such as ventilators and fluid pumps are still new to me. Also, I feel like the information gone over in this class is presented in a very practical way, which is a refreshing change to my classes in CCNY so far.

In the lab modules, we first labeled all of our equipment that we are going to bring Nicaragua in Spanish.

Our equipment splayed across the table.

Our next module involved making an extension cord from wire and male and female adaptors.

My hospital partner, Alex, holding the extension cord we made.

We then worked on some soldering.

Alex practicing desoldering.

Friz, my other roommate, practicing desoldering.

We also went over Ohm’s Law, LED’s, and rectifiers. Overall, I’ve been using this part of the program to get used to the equipment that I will be using in Nicaragua so I can use that time as efficiently as possible.

Overall, it has been a very busy and productive week.

Fun Stuff

Outside of exploring San Jose and the places in our homestay, EWH organized a day trip to San Ramon for a zip-linning tour of the canopy. The speed at which we zipped through the mountains, the many feet that we were in the air, and the view over the mountain forrest made it really enjoyable.