Dr. Sandra Toribio: “Practicing medicine in my place of origin is re-embracing my culture” – Interview

The program’s first Vichy graduate doesn’t want to be the last. After his rotational internship he wants to return to Formosa to serve his community and integrate knowledge.

Invisible: Value and fame do not always coincide; Even the most dedicated doctors are not the most visible. They value the gratitude of people who need them more than a few minutes on television. They are part of their communities and committed to them. They have nothing to sell; Rather they share what they have, what they know. They serve humble families in remote places; They do not want to leave any disease orphan. They heal when possible and are always cared for. These are the people who give meaning to an ancient profession by keeping their feet in the mud. IntraMed would like to honor him with this series of interviews that aims to give visibility to the “invisible”.

doctor sandra toribio She is the first doctor hailing from the Vichy community of Formosa, but it doesn’t matter that much to her. Rather, it prioritizes not being last and shows youth that leaving your field and gaining entry is a difficult path, but possible.

He studied at the National University of the Northeast (UNNE) in Corrientes province, and during the pandemic, he lived without seeing his family for three years because of the Ingeniero Juárez region where there was no internet service and courses were virtual. ,

Today, all he has to do is complete a rotating internship and then return to serve in remote locations in the province. For her, returning meant embracing her culture and her people, whom she missed so much. But also collaborate to integrate the knowledge of your ancestors with the knowledge acquired at the Faculty and thus contribute to a more inclusive health system. Here, his interview with Intramed.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

The truth is that I didn’t imagine it at first, I just knew that I wanted to have a profession. Tuition was within all my possibilities, but for reasons unknown to me, all study places in my community were closed, there were no tertiary courses or anything. Then I thought maybe I could go to university and I chose medicine because I’m very curious and I like science. Since I was the last among my siblings, I grew up very much alone and books were my passion since childhood. My time in secondary school, which was not for indigenous people, but for white people, also influenced me. There I saw a different world and they taught me that I could explore many branches within education. So, there are many factors that led me to choose medicine and today I have no regrets.

What satisfaction and responsibilities do you feel in being the first doctor from the Vichy community?

The truth is that I didn’t know I was going to be First, but it gives me a lot of responsibilities, a lot of work because after my last months here, I want to be able to do my job and return to my community. I want it to be true, without forgetting that we, being indigenous people, consider it a medicine.

But it’s also an honor and a point of pride because being the first Indigenous woman to graduate from the program I never measured my impact. I lived, studied and graduated from the course normally. But it’s had an impact on young Indigenous people who see that there is a possible future, that there are options, that they too can aspire to those high-level careers. In all the years that I was in Corrientes, I never saw another Vichy at my university, but that was no reason to stop dreaming of seeing them study and then practice.

Once, in another interview, he had asked me ‘How does it feel to be the first?’. And I replied that it was a great honor, but one I really hoped would not be the last.

How was your experience as a student?

The first years were difficult, because in UNNE you take exams to proceed to the first subject and then continue to the second subject. I had to pay a lot for this. I suffered a lot during the race, I cried when I was away from my family, but in all the years that followed I was very happy, I enjoyed being there. I made my “facufriends”. I also had the opportunity to conduct research within the faculty and am grateful for the professorships that opened doors for me to be able to teach. In short, I can’t say it has been easy, because it was hard because medicine is hard, but we had a good time because we love this career.

What were your experiences outside of the disciplines (collaboration in Indigenous science and meetings with community leaders) and what were your years of study like during the pandemic?

The pandemic has taken away many of my years of exploring within the faculty and I only got the full experience in my fourth and fifth years. I had this problem during the pandemic, I wouldn’t call it bad, but it was very sad because I was away from my family and I spent almost three years without seeing them. I couldn’t return to my community because there was no internet there and my course was virtual, so I stayed in Corrientes. But despite the sadness and the fact that it was a difficult time for everyone, that time was good within my studio, because it was really 24/7 dedication.

Indigenous science includes movements carried out by a wide variety of professionals, both Argentine and foreign. We want to promote everything related to indigenous knowledge under the scientific method, because communities have a lot to contribute. For example, in medicine, we are evaluating how much knowledge the natives had about anatomy, how much they knew about diseases and their treatments, what exactly was lost and what they wanted to preserve. Let’s continue.

In Biology, I had the opportunity to observe natives of Canada and the United States who are advanced in this field. Their leaders tell youth that the only way for communities out of poverty is to study. And remember what the struggles of our ancestors were. I remember them always, even though I am young, I can talk through their voices about my ancestors who fought thousands of years ago, and especially about the fear they felt Was and which they are feeling even today.

You grew up in Ingeniero Juárez and want to return to work in your community. What are the main health problems?

I grew up in Ingeniero Juarez, but we’re not from there, we’re more from the interior. My mother is from Salta and my father is from Formosa. Within the Wichis, we have small ethnic groups. More than the city where I grew up and studied, I plan to work with Vichy communities that are in the west of Formosa, precisely in General Mosconi (today restored with its original name El Chorro) and El Potrillo.

And as far as public health is concerned, I still don’t know how the system is managed, but I can speak to the experience of us indigenous people. Already in cities we are seeing that attention spans diminish rapidly, so imagine what happens deep in the mountains, in remote communities. It is very uncertain, the only thing that can be done is to give painkillers, there is no treatment, everything is palliative, surgery is temporary.

And one thing I always want to add is that the natives are afraid of the health system and there are many reasons why they decide not to go to the health institution, because of this fear that each of us has in our mind . Because we have to think about our history, about indigenous subjugation, about genocide. So the last thing an indigenous person is going to do is go to the hospital, he has no plans. And I believe that these are issues in which we should intervene, evaluate what is happening, and offer a public health system so that we can also use it, remembering that the health community -is based. Because if a piece of territory is bad, if a community is bad, especially if we talk about communicable diseases, there is a possibility that the pathology will expand. Since Native people are humans and part of society, if we are bad, it can trickle down to the rest. So someone has to intervene in public policies and it would be good if at such times what is wrong within the health system can be treated. Everyone knows about the indigenous suffering and solutions can be found through dialogue.

Doctors working in communities always highlight the role of health agents. In her case it would be a doctor who is also part of her community. Do you feel double responsibility for this?

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