An update from Nia Robinson, our District 5450 Rotary Scholar

From Guadalajara, our District's scholar reports on her experiences studying at the Institute de Ciencias Biologicas

It’s the middle of the rainy season in Guadalajara. I am reminded every morning as I walk to school in my white uniform, desperately trying not to get splashed by passing cars. Almost every day, a grey cloudbank rolls in and there is brief, but intense, downpour, frequently accompanied by explosive thunder. Consequently, the city and surrounding countryside is lush and green.

 

In early August, Herandenny, my roommate, and I returned to Atequiza as part of the volunteer organization Guimedic. On this expedition, our main goal was to provide anti-parasitic medication to the school-aged children while still providing primary care to the locals. I was particularly proud of myself on this occasion, as I successfully diagnosed a lady with gallstones. At the end of a rewarding day Herandenny and I were met with a lovely surprise: a picture taken during our last expedition to Atequiza had made it into the local newspaper. Delighted, we were each given copies of the newspaper to take home.

 

From August 17 – 19 I attended the First International Symposium concerning emerging Arboviruses, hosted by the Universidad Autόnoma de Guadalajara. The speakers were from all over the Western Hemisphere and about the half the presentations were given in English while the other half were given in Spanish. What impressed me the most were the new developments in diagnostics. One lab connected with MIT were using nanoparticle technology to develop rapid diagnostic tests for both Zika and Dengue. When the human immune system is exposed to a pathogen, one response is the production of antibodies, proteins that bind to pathogenic particles (antigens) and facilitate their destruction and disposal. Researchers isolated Zika- and Dengue-specific antibodies and combined them with nanoparticles so that when the antibody binds antigen the nanoparticle would emit light of a specific wavelength. The lab is currently refining the technology so they can mass produce a rapid diagnostic test.

 

At the Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas, we continue to move through the curriculum: we began with gastrointestinal pathology, microbiology and pharmacology, moved on to the endocrine system and ended our first ‘block’ with genitourinary diseases and treatment. Concurrently, we learned how to give intramuscular injections, how to start an intravenous line how to give physical examinations and, in a particularly fun class, how to bandage and cast. I am looking forward to starting our next block: dermatology, hematology and oncology.