The strong global health program at Yale School of Medicine (YSM) was a “huge incentive” for Monica Ferrer Socorro ’20, MD, to attend Yale.
Ferrer Socorro, a native of Venezuela, arrived at YSM with a focus on gaining experience working with underserved populations, learning about migrant health issues, and building networks that would enable her to have a positive impact on global health throughout her career.
In her final year at YSM, supported by one of several alumni-funded travel awards, Ferrer Socorro applied, through the Office of Global Health Education (OGHE), to participate in a Global Clinical Elective at Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá (FSFB), a hospital in Colombia founded by two YSM alumni.
As Ferrer Socorro explains, an elective in Colombia would enable her to help Venezuelan migrants, 1.8 million of whom have immigrated to Colombia. After Syria, Venezuela is experiencing the second largest migrant crisis worldwide. Five million migrants and refugees have left Venezuela for other countries and Colombia is the leading host country for Venezuelan migrants.
In the fall, prior to her scheduled elective at FSFB, OGHE invited Ferrer Socorro to join the Bellagio Global Health Education Initiative (BGHEI) conference in Colombia, where several speakers spoke about the health challenges faced by Venezuelan migrants. Ferrer Socorro took this opportunity to discuss with FSFB and one of the conference presenters (Corpas CHC, which aids Venezuelan migrants who lack insurance) the possibility of incorporating more into her upcoming elective about the health care challenges of the Venezuelan migrant communities in Colombia.
With the support and organization of FSFB, Ferrer Socorro was paired with an FSFB resident on a social pediatric rotation, where she spent two weeks with the Colombian Ministry of Health, learning how the organization functions and gaining exposure to the many NGOs it engages with, including the Red Cross, the UN Population Fund, and the International Office of Migration.
Additionally, Corpas CHC offered to host her at its clinic for a week.
Her discussions led to an experience that perfectly aligned with her interests, and she emphasizes, “Anne Kellett and Dr. Rohrbaugh from the OGHE were amazing in helping me craft a rotation in the way I wanted to.”
The elective enabled her to have varied experiences and comparative insights. At Corpas CHC, where the focus was on prevention, she learned that the long list of social history questions she asked patients during the usual hour-long visit was “equally as important as asking about the history of their present illness.” In contrast, FSFB was run like a US hospital, and “less time was focused on prevention.” She repeatedly saw the negative health impacts of women not having access to adequate prenatal care, which led her to realize certain issues need to be addressed by changing the system in which patients live, focusing on prevention. Ferrer Socorro explains that her experience at the Health Ministry enabled her to think about changing systems and to learn “who the different actors were, their interventions, and the political and economic barriers experienced.”
This summer, Ferrer Socorro has begun her pediatric neurology residency at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She expects that residency will keep her busy, but plans to continue to be involved in issues connected to Colombia and Venezuela. She currently believes the most effective way to help Venezuela is by helping migrants and refugees in Colombia, where international institutions and aid are welcome, and which, at the moment, is safer than Venezuela. She hopes that by continuing to build networks, she can be effective at making change in the future.
Robert Rohrbaugh, MD, associate dean for global health education, stated “we are certain Ferrer Socorro will be someone who is effective in making change in both domestic settings and international settings and we are delighted to have assisted in her development!”