Global Field Ed Dispatches: The Placement (Mexico)

Williams hard at work on the qualitative coding of interviews.

This semester, Innovate@BCSW is following the experiences of several BC Social Work students who have embarked on international field education placements in Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. This is the second post from Samantha Williams, who is working at Universidad Iberomericana in Mexico City.

When I first saw the prompt for our second blog post I was with a colleague. We read “tell us about a typical day at your placement,” and we looked at each other and said simultaneously “we don’t have typical days!” So, the best I can do is tell you about one of the most memorable days at my placement, which I think provides good insight into what it’s like to conduct business in this wonderfully complex country.

As you may know from my last post, my placement is at a health equity research institute at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, called the EQUIDE. I am here to work on the preliminary phase of a joint project between the EQUIDE and Yale University. This has been a great learning experience because apart from Mireya Vilar and the impressive staff at the EQUIDE, I have also gotten to work with Robin Whittemore and Rafael Perez-Escamilla, two Yale researchers who are doing really innovative work in the nursing and public health fields. This project is a pilot Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) Self-Management Education intervention for low-income T2D patients at public health clinics in Mexico City, modeled after an existing intervention called ¡Sí, Yo Puedo Controlar mi Diabetes! (Yes, I Can Manage my Diabetes!). Yo Puedo! has already been implemented with great success among Latinx adults in Texas near the border with Mexico, and now Yale and the EQUIDE hope to translate the intervention culturally to be applicable in Mexico City. So, up until now I have conducted interviews with potential intervention recipients, helped build relationships with clinics and healthcare providers, transcribed interviews, and learned how and started working on qualitative data analysis using NVivo, among other tasks.

But now onto one of my most memorable days at placement:

First things first, you should know that in Mexico, many things are resolved over a good meal. As I said, I am here for the preliminary evaluation phase of the Yo Puedo! project, which means I have gotten a small taste of how it works to try and get a substantial research project like this off the ground in Mexico City, which as you can imagine involves a lot of moving parts! For instance, in order to get permission to work directly with public health insurance clinics, the EQUIDE had to meet with a variety of people from the Mexican Health Department, and were given access to two clinics at which we could conduct our preliminary evaluation work. However, in order to actually implement the full intervention, we would need access about 4 clinics in all. Cue a delicious 4-course business lunch with some of the higher-ups from the Health Department to discuss this expansion, with whom we discussed, over two and a half hours, the merits of our project while lauding the work of the Health Department on T2D prevention. All I can say is I think more US business meetings should be held over tortilla soup and chicken cordon bleu…how uptight can you be while slurping soup and dealing with tons of melty cheese?

Now while this is a lighthearted story, I think the takeaway here is important for us American task-oriented go-getters. At the lunch, everyone introduced themselves, people responded with interest, everyone ate and commented on the meal, AND we got done what we needed to from a professional perspective. Obviously, not every Mexican business meeting is an extended lunch affair, but it does seem that here people seem to understand that even if you’re managing serious business, there’s always time to acknowledge one another’s humanity, a lesson we could all stand to learn.

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