International Subspecialty Elective in Ophthalmology

IHA offers a subspecialty elective in ophthalmology and optometry to medical and optometric students in their clinical training years. This elective is done in coordination  with a residency training program from Guatemala performed under the supervision of a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  This 4-week elective has 3 components- language instruction, clinical supervision, and cultural participation.  The first two weeks of this elective will be spent at an ophthalmology clinic associated with a Guatemalan residency training program. The second two weeks will be spent performing eye examinations in the rural communities of Petén, Guatemala. Students participating in this elective will participate in many of the activities of the general medicine elective; however the clinical exposure will be focused on examining patients with visual complaints. At the end of this rotation, the student will be able to perform an eye examination in Spanish, diagnose and treat commonly diagnosed eye diseases seen in Central America and effectively triage patients for follow-up treatment and surgery. Dates for this elective need to be arranged with an ophthalmology preceptor


Language Component

The language component is scheduled for the first week (or additional weeks) of all electives.  Upon arrival in Guatemala City, the student will be transported to Antigua. Accommodations will be with a host family while the student attends one of the established language schools.  At the completion of this week (or additional  weeks for ophthalmology students) students will be transported to Guatemala City where they will fly to Flores to begin a clinical experience.


Clinical Experience

The clinical experience will begin once the language component is completed. Students will gain first-hand clinical experience in the clinics associated with the Guatemalan ophthalmology training program. In addition, students will spend 2 weeks performing eye examinations in Petén, as they accompany our permanent staff on their regularly scheduled visits to rural villages and inner city communities.


Cultural Aspects

The cultural aspects of the program include a variety of activities that serve to immerse the student/volunteer into the daily life of the local and indigenous community.  Cultural aspects of the program include:

  1. Medical jornadas in indigenous villages including meals with a local family.
  2. Lectures on the local cultures
  3. Participation in the local events
  4. Lectures on the history of Guatemala and the Petén
  5. Lectures on Mayan culture and archeology
  6. Visits to the Mayan ruins