“An Experience of a Lifetime”

P3 Lauren Speakman's Summer in Peru

Lauren Speakman with the Peruvian oncology staff Lauren Speakman with the Peruvian oncology staff.

September 6, 2017

AUBURN, Alabama – When most people say they are taking a trip to a warmer climate, that typically means a vacation. For Class of 2019 member Lauren Speakman, a trip to Peru this past summer was definitely a business trip.

A native of Auburn, Alabama, Speakman spent five weeks in Arequipa, Peru, the second-largest city in the country behind Lima. Following a week-long intensive medical Spanish course, she spent four weeks in Hospital Goyeneche, the most primitive hospital in the city.

“I spent two weeks in internal medicine and two weeks in oncology,” said Speakman. “My daily routine varied, but some of the activities I was able to do included rounding with the medical team, compounding creams and lotions, prepping IV chemo lines, attending continuing education presentations, observing doctor’s oncology consultations, filling prescriptions in the central and emergency pharmacies, and observing an ankle surgery.”

The internship opportunity was offered through United Kingdom-based Work the World, a company that specializes in tailor-made internships around the world for health care students. The opportunity in Peru offered a mixture of both of her academic pursuits, combining her pharmacy training with her undergraduate Spanish degree.

“I considered this past summer the last summer break of my life, so I decided to make the most of it by seeking out an opportunity that would grow me professionally and personally, put me outside of my comfort zone, and provide travel opportunities and adventure,” said Speakman. “The Work the World staff was incredibly helpful. From the moment I showed interest in the program, their U.K. staff was very hands-on and frequently contacted me and helped me through the process of preparing for my trip. They also had in-country staff that was so willing to go above and beyond to help all the students in any way possible.”

The experience was an eye-opening one for Speakman as she witnessed some of the differences in healthcare in Peru vs. the United States, particularly in the under-served area she was in. Some key differences she noticed were a lack of patient privacy with up to 20 patients in a room at times, a lack of electronic health records, less collaboration among healthcare professionals, and few safety measures against Tuberculosis, which is a common disease in Peru.

“The stark differences between health care in the U.S. and health care in Peru was at times shocking,” said Speakman. “Although their system was very different than what I was accustomed to, I gained a priceless experience learning about global health and how health care looks in developing countries.”

One of the main things she took away from the experience was the relationships she created with the others in the program, as well as the healthcare professionals she worked with each day. Others participating in the programs came from across the world, including countries such as England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Canada.

“The people that I met and the relationships that I developed inside and outside of the hospital made the whole experience,” said Speakman. “I lived in a house with about 30 other healthcare students from all over the world, so not only was I learning about the Peruvian culture, but I was being exposed to other cultures and I now consider these people lifelong friends.

“Additionally, I befriended many of the pharmacists, Peruvian pharmacy students, Doctors, and med students at the hospital. I enjoyed practicing my Spanish and comparing stories with them.”

While work was her primary focus, Speakman was able to get away and travel some during the five weeks.

“I traveled to Peru earlier on the front end of my internship to visit Machu Picchu with my dad and most weekends I traveled by bus throughout Peru with my new friends,” said Speakman. “We visited Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, and Huacachina, a desert oasis where I sand boarded for the first time. During the afternoons when we left the hospital we were able to explore the city of Arequipa and go white water rafting or zip lining on the outskirts of town.”

Lauren Speakman stands with five other healthcare students in the program
Lauren Speakman (second from left), pictured with Stephanie Riley, Sav Malla, Gigi Lee, Adrianne De Roo, and Brooke Johnson - other healthcare students from all over the world working at Hospital Goyeneche.
Speakman with Peruvian intern
Lauren Speakman with a Peruvian pharmacy intern outside of the central pharmacy.


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: September 6, 2017