Sarah Pawlitsky and her young friend Mia pose for the camera in Chunchi

Medical training journey led to Ecuador

Local woman helps those who need health care in Ecuador

  • Feb. 26, 2011 6:00 p.m.

After leaving Kelowna, Sarah Pawlitsky was looking for adventure.

She went away to school, set her sights on medicine, and started doing the hard work needed to become a doctor, returning to Kelowna during the summers to work.

Then last year, a Vancouver-based company started by two brothers from Ecuador—one in Canada to play soccer and the other one to attend medical school—helped her see a side of the world, and her chosen profession, she never expected.

“It was one of those trips that once you come home and you sit down and you think about everything that happened, it’s just surreal,” she said.

Help, Learn, Discover is a small company that takes students, and particularly those interested in medicine and health care, away to see what life is like in another part of the world. The group learns about life in a developing country, helps those in need and discovers what practicing medicine, or their chosen field of study, is like from the trenches.

“Medicine is so glamourized these days with all the TV shows,” said Pawlitsky. “But it’s really not as glamorous as people might think. It’s definitely a job that takes a lot out of you.”

Pawlitsky travelled to Ecuador in May with her group of fellow students who managed to raise $25,000 in just over a month to complete the help portion of their adventure. 

The money was put toward building homes in a rural portion of the country where the students learned to appreciate what life is like in the developing world.

From there, Pawlitsky started to learn about medicine, working in five rotations—surgery, emergency medicine, rehabilitation, internal medicine and with MRI and X-Ray technology.

The medical system in Canada and Ecuador are quite similar, she found. 

“The public sector, like Canada, is open to all residents of the country,” she said. 

“So it’s there but, of course, with so many people and so little funding it’s not as polished as the public sector. 

“So if you imagine, you sit in an emergency room as opposed to going to a specialist where you make an appointment and they see you right away. That’s the difference.”

Students can opt to look into other careers and areas of study as well, spending extra time in the project village looking at social, economic or health care issues, or exploring the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.

At the end of the trip, the company elects to ask certain students to return as leaders and Pawlitsky was among them.

She now wants other students in her hometown of Kelowna to know about the opportunity.

For more information on the program see 

The application deadline is March 18.


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