Peru: American Medical Student Association

Rene Phan

From Roseville, California, Rene Phan is currently a rising fourth-year student pursuing a major in Human Biology and Society and a minor in Chicano Studies. On the pre-med track, she hopes to someday go into pediatrics or neonatology as a primary care physician. Having always known this was the right path for her, Phan wanted to meet other like-minded pre-med students when entering UCLA. This led to her joining UCLA’s American Medical Student Association (AMSA), an organization that provides resources and guidance for premedical undergraduate students, during her freshman year.


Her time at UCLA also opened her eyes to the socioeconomic equality that affects many other people. This pushed her to find ways to give back and the following summer she participated in AMSA’s International Outreach Project (IOP) which sends student volunteers to medical mission trips around the world each summer. Having been to Guatemala and India as an IOP Intern and Director, she continued this experience by leading the trip to Peru this summer as AMSA’s External President. After a year of figuring out logistics to interviewing and selecting her team, Phan finally set off on her three-week medical mission in August.

Each day in Peru, Phan and her fellow volunteers were out the door each day by 7am and on the way to small town that needed medical attention. Once the group set up, they were each assigned to work at a station such as blood pressure/heart rate, height and weight, medical, dental, or pharmacy. As one of the few Spanish speakers in the group, Phan floated around, assisting wherever needed. Additionally, as the President, she was also in charge of their medical campaigns and making executive decisions.


One challenge that her group faced were the strikes in Peru. Though originally intending to shadow at nearby hospitals, the current strikes in Peru over healthcare and schooling resulted in a lack of available hospitals for them to work in. These unexpected changes threw off their schedule and posed a new hurdle for Phan. However, she was able to adapt by increasing mobile outreach campaigns instead of focusing on job shadowing. She describes it as a blessing in disguise because they were able to engage with the community more and truly provide them with valuable services that are otherwise inaccessible.

Through this new approach, they gained more hands-on experience and more one-on-one interactions with patients. For instance, Phan recalls one little boy who was very scared of the doctors. After calming him down, he would not let go of her hand and she had the opportunity to accompany him through each of the medical stations to keep him relaxed. This experience was especially memorable and rewarding for her.


Overall, this experience taught Phan about her own natural abilities as a leader. In addition to improving her problem-solving and communication skills, she has become more confident in her own abilities as a leader. Additionally it has also affected her own life and career path. In the valuable bonds and relationships she was able to build and the impact she was able to create, these experiences through IOP have reinforced Phan’s passion to become a doctor and continue to participate as an international volunteer physician. She states, “I feel the obligation to give back, but also truly enjoy doing so,” said Phan. “Meeting people with lives so different than mine inspires me to continue giving back to the community in any way possible.”

If you are interested, please contact AMSA recruits throughout the year and the application for IOP opens fall quarter.

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