At the 2012 Laureate Leadership Summit, Doctors Ingrid Baier and Ignacio Silva received the "Here for Good Alumni Award", which was created to celebrate the success and impact Laureate graduates are having around the world. More than 30 institutions throughout the Laureate network nominated candidates for this award.
Drs. Baier and Silva graduated from the medical program at Universidad Andrés Bello in 2010. After graduating, they spent close to a year as volunteer doctors in Burundi, a small nation located in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, with an estimated population of nearly nine million inhabitants and considered the third poorest country in the world.
During this period, the physicians came face to face with death and hardship. Ignacio Silva confessed, "we noted during our time that death is an everyday thing there, regardless of age or precondition." The country is also recovering from a recently concluded civil war, which ravaged the country for more than 15 years, impacting the regions economic, cultural and intellectual development. "The war took away everything. Many people live day to day, struggling to survive," he added.
Daily life for this couple was not easy: they often made due with limited food, they encountered a language barrier and tried to help alleviate the burden of a suffering nation, but both managed to get ahead. Both Ingrid and Ignacio indicated the experience was invaluable to them as doctors, helping them continue to develop the 'clinical eye' and deliver the best medical care with limited resources.
"We were slowly discovering the mysterious African culture that conveys both sadness and hope," said Ignacio. However, the reality of Africa is still very difficult: the infant mortality rate is very high (102 die from every thousand live births), two in ten people is a carrier of HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis is prevalent (714 of 100,000 inhabitants), life expectancy is only 50 years, and there is less than one physician per 10,000 inhabitants.
The alums received the Here for Good Award from Laureate’s CEO and Chairman, Doug Becker, at the 2012 Laureate Leadership Summit gala dinner in Miami, which was attended by leaders from U. Andres Bello (including Rector, Dr. Pedro Uribe and prorector, Jorge Id), as well as leaders from throughout Laureate’s international network.
"The best reward for all the obstacles we encountered were the smiles of thanks at the end of the day and the satisfaction of accomplishment, which allowed us to keep ourselves moving throughout our time in Africa," said Dr. Baier.
This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.