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A grand invitation

This fall, Northeastern University junior nursing major Justin Alves was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Argentina to join with doctors and other health-care professionals there to assess the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Argentinean health-care systems.

He credited his co-op experiences with a hospital outside of Buenos Aires and in Massachusetts General Hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit for earning him the opportunity.

“I was the only person on the panel who had practical experience working in both countries,” said Alves, who has also worked in the Bouvé College of Health Science’s Health in Motion van, which offers free health clinics to community members. “It was an honor to be a part of.”

The panel capped an experience of a lifetime for Alves. In the fall, he earned a Presidential Global Scholarship to work at the Hospital Central de San Isidro, located outside Buenos Aires. There, he shadowed doctors while they interviewed patients, reviewed their diagnoses and treatment plans and answered their questions.

Through his co-op at the hospital, Alves learned about a nonprofit called the Fundación Ciudadanos del Mundo, which educates and offers resources to immigrant populations. He began volunteering there and wrote a women’s health curriculum for the organization to help educate immigrants. After researching and speaking with local social workers, he developed a five-day program of workshops covering sexual education, pregnancy and domestic violence.

“It’s exciting to know that I helped fill a gap in health care here,” Alves said.

His experience came full circle when he met officials from the U.S. Embassy through his volunteer experience with Fundación Ciudadanos del Mundo.

His co-op with the hospital made him an ideal panelist for the embassy-sponsored event, said Alves, noting that his hospital work provided an “in-the-trenches” view of health care in Argentina. His presentation, in Spanish, focused on his clinical experiences.

Strengthening his Spanish, he hopes, will also prove invaluable when it comes time to communicate with patients and community members back in Boston.

Alves praised Northeastern’s co-op program for opening his eyes to new opportunities. His experience, he said, affirmed his interest in pursuing public health.

“I would now consider working in an international public-health setting, when I hadn’t before,” Alves said.

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