On June 10, 2017, during our open clinic in San Roman / Santa Clara, Sreeja and I interviewed Dr. Gutierrez. I originally had 14 questions written for the interview, but due to time constraints we only asked 8. The interview can be listened to below.
I learned a lot about the healthcare system in Belize while talking to Dr. Gutierrez, and I am very glad I got the opportunity to talk to him. One thing that initially struck me was when he was talking about schooling he explained how you go to high school for four years, get a two year associate’s degree, and then go to medical school for six and a half years (six months of this time for pre-med). To me I was surprised that high school in Belize is the equivalent of college in America and so by junior year Dr. Gutierrez told us you had to declare your concentration. I could not imagine knowing exactly what I wanted to major in when I was only a junior in high school. Additionally, I feel like having to decide so early would be hard because it would limit the ability to explore your interests before having to decide to go to medical school. Dr. Gutierrez was 20 when he went into medical school. It is not a huge difference from the American timeline, but it seems like education in Belize is excelled by a few years. Another thing that surprised me during the conversation was that there are no medical schools in Belize so the government would pay for medical students to attend school in Cuba. The fact that the only medical schools are abroad I feel would deter Belizeans from wanting to attend. Many people in Belize have never left the country and so i’m sure that is hard for some people to move to a new country and attend medical school for almost seven years in a foreign country.
Dr. Gutierrez works in the maternal ward of the Orange Walk hospital and he told us some of the challenges he saw while working there. He told us many of the things we observed across clinic days, like poor adherence. Specifically women would not go to prenatal checkups because they weren’t able to afford it. Prenatal care, especially in developed nations is something we take for granted and know it will always be available. In developing nations however prenatal care and ultrasound screenings are almost a luxury due to the lack of equipment, and cost of care in Belize. Because there are so few ultrasound machines available, private clinics usually charge higher costs for women to get scans and so typically women in rural areas do not have the means to get these necessary scans. As someone who is interested in maternal and infant care it worried me that many of this life saving equipment is simply not available. With the expansion of healthcare in Belize, and the increase of medical professionals in the field, hopefully many of these issues can be addressed in the future. Dr. Gutierrez really helped me understand the medical experience from his perspective, and he opened my eyes to many of the issues we hardly face in America.