Myranda McGowan is a University of New Mexico student attending Casa Xalteva as part of a Spring 2009 study abroad program. As part of the program she had to fulfill and internship requirement. She spent 1 week at the Forensic Clinic outside of Granada, Nicaragua and 1 week at the Office of Legal Medicine in Managua.
My first week: Clinica Forense (Forensic Clinic) outside Granada, Nicaragua…
I am sitting in the office of Dr. Hernandez when a young man walks in. He is here for a physical exam, evidence collection and then is on his way to prison. The doctor is to check his height, weight, blood pressure and pulse. After this he will collect blood and DNA swabs of the mouth and urethra to send to the lab for analyzing. Interestingly, this young male is a possible sex offender but he appears happy, friendly and attempts to speak to me when the doctor steps out. He is a little guy and has a warm, welcoming face. It makes me realize you can’t judge someone on the way they look or portray themselves externally.
This is the process I observe all week. They conduct physicals, approving people’s health for prison, conduct evidence collection on domestic violence, sexual abuse and victims of lesiones (injuries) from fighting. Lesiones are reported to be the most common case that walks in to this office on a weekly basis. The second and third most common cases are that of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
My second week: La Oficina de Medicina Legal (Office of Legal Medicine) in Managua
My first day I find myself suited up like I am headed to the moon. I am given scrubs, shoe covers, arm guards, gloves, an apron, mask and a face shield. I enter a small room that is freezing cold in comparison to the 94°F weather outside. I notice two metal tables in the middle of the room, one of which has the body of a deceased person on it. He was found in a water tank and an autopsy will be done to clarify the cause of death is drowning.
The doctor approaches the table and the external examination begins. The body is examined from head to toe for evidence of foul play. The Doctor takes photos of the face, scars and tattoos in hopes of someone recognizing something that will put a name to this lifeless face. Afterward the body is thoroughly cleaned and specimens are collected. At this point the body has been prepped for autopsy to begin.
During these two weeks I learned so much about the system of Nicaragua and how their justice and health system operate hand in hand. Many of the doctors have studied in other countries such as the United States, Spain and Germany but tell me they come back because they feel they need to serve their people. During these two weeks I was among truly talented, successful, intelligent, humble doctors. They allowed me to observe, and took interest in my want to learn about their system here in Nicaragua. An experience I will truly never forget