Global Health in Ecuador (Quito & Otavalo)

Program overview

Located in the Andes mountain range, Quito is the most populated city in the country. Ecuador’s vibrant capital is known for its beautiful colonial center and was the first city to be declared World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Quito is one of CFHI’s longest-running programs. It offers participants the opportunity to immerse in a range of health services and experience a comprehensive view of the local healthcare system. 

Since 2008, Ecuador has recognized healthcare access as a fundamental constitutional right and has made significant advances in the pursuit of universal health coverage. In this program, learn how Ecuadorians access health at primary, secondary, and tertiary care sites and shadow local professionals in one of the country’s busiest hospitals at the public maternity hospital. In the Quito & Otavalo program, participants will spend 1-week living in Otavalo and visiting a clinic focused on providing care to the indigenous population.

Further your language skills through conversational and medical Spanish classes and become immersed in Ecuadorian culture while living with local families in Quito. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to destinations such as the town of Mindo, Cotopaxi volcano, and the Otavalo market.

General information
Hospital & Inpatient Medicine Maternal & Reproductive Health Pediatrics & Child Health Primary health care Public Health Traditional & Indigenous Medicine Urban/Rural Comparative
Advanced Spanish Beginner Spanish Intermediate Spanish
Fees and Duration
2 Weeks - $2235 4 Weeks - $3320 5 Weeks - $3980 6 Weeks - $4635 7 Weeks - $5290 8 Weeks - $6270 9 Weeks - $6870 10 Weeks - $7665
Start Dates
August 3rd, 2024 September 7th, 2024 October 5th, 2024 November 2nd, 2024 January 4th, 2025 February 1st, 2025 March 1st, 2025 April 5th, 2025 May 3rd, 2025 June 7th, 2025 July 5th, 2025 August 2nd, 2025 September 6th, 2025 October 4th, 2025 November 1st, 2025

About this program


Quito is the capital of Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Founded in the 16th century atop the ruins of an Incan city, today this modern metropolis boasts a diverse population of about two million people. As the capital and economic hub of the country, it attracts migrants from rural areas – mostly indigenous groups, as well as immigrants from neighboring countries.

Quito is nestled in a valley within the Andes Mountain Range, surrounded by volcanoes and impressive peaks. At an elevation of 9,000 feet above sea level, it is considered one of the highest capital cities in the world. Due to its close proximity to the equator, the climate is spring-like all year long, with warm days and cool nights. Quito’s historic center is one of the largest and least altered in the Americas and one of the first world cultural heritage sites declared by UNESCO in the 1970’s. As the nation’s capital, it is a lively urban center with dancing, dining, historical sites, shopping and museums.

Otavalo, a small picturesque town, is celebrated for its indigenous culture and bustling markets. Home to the renowned Otavalo Market, visitors flock here to immerse themselves in a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, with locals adorned in traditional attire selling vibrant textiles, jewelry, and artisanal goods. Beyond the market’s charm, Otavalo offers stunning natural landscapes, including the Peguche Waterfall and San Pablo Lake, attracting outdoor enthusiasts. Otavalo encapsulates the essence of Ecuador’s vibrant culture and natural beauty, making it a captivating destination for travelers seeking an authentic experience.

Program participants will find their home away from home in carefully selected homestays, screened by CFHI Local Coordinators in Quito and following CFHI’s health and safety guidelines. Nestled within Northern Quito, these homestays offer the perfect blend of comfort and authenticity, situated in middle-class neighborhoods with excellent access to the language school, public transportation, shops, restaurants, and cafes. In some cases, CFHI scholars share a house or a room in the same homestay with fellow program participants.

Going beyond mere lodging, these homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about the local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodations include two meals per day. At the welcome orientation, participants will be instructed on culture and work etiquette to have the best experience in both homestay and the health setting.

Participants should arrive in Quito, Ecuador on the program start date (a Saturday) and will be met and picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. The medical orientation usually takes place on Sunday and the language school orientation on Monday. If you arrive on an alternate date, please consult with the local coordinator for your orientation schedule.

Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in Ecuador. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.

What’s Included

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your on the ground costs. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Program advising and support via email, phone, and web meeting from CFHI’s Central Leadership team
  • Detailed online Pre-Departure Training that includes modules on program logistics (flights, visas, immunizations, and more), intercultural learning, introduction to health realities at your program site, and much more

On-Site Services

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation with a local CFHI representative to your program lodging
  • Welcome orientation 1-2 days after arrival covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Spanish Classes: 20 hours/month of Spanish classes, including medical Spanish instruction and cultural activities
  • CFHI Local Team that provides instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Meetings and lectures on local healthcare system, socio-economic determinants of health and current cultural/historical topics. 
  • Placement and coordination of clinical and any public health activities (if relevant)
  • Accommodation and two meals per day
  • Local cell phone or support obtaining a local SIM card
  • International emergency medical and evacuation insurance (unless waived by your university or institution)

Post-Return Resources

  • Opportunities to engage as a CFHI Alumni Ambassador, reviewing scholarship applications, speaking on CFHI panels, and more
  • Access to CFHI alumni-only social media group/s featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, professional development opportunities, resources, and ways to stay involved


Uniquely, 60% or more of CFHI student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large. 


CFHI participants have free time during most evenings and weekends and may choose to organize weekend trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within Quito itself.

Within Quito, popular activities include visiting the “middle of the world” or the equatorial line, the famous Guayasamin art museum and home, and the historic city center. Quito is also served by various bus lines and is an ideal jumping off point to see the rest of the country. Travel to the Amazon to hike, nature watch, and visit jungle communities. Closer to Quito and ideal for a day or weekend trip is Otavalo, a primarily indigenous town that has maintained its traditional way of life and is renown for its weekly market.


A typical day in a CFHI program is a blend of immersive learning, cultural exploration, and personal reflection. Participants begin their mornings with breakfast at their homestay, followed by 4-6 hours of health-related activities. The health site assignments and schedule are shared by the local team upon arrival. In the afternoon, participants attend Spanish classes at the language school, with the hours and regularity varying based on the program. Weekends are free of program-planned activities.

Neev Gamble

Neev is a junior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Neuroscience, originally from Wellesley, Massachusetts. At school she is on the pre-dental track and is on the rowing team. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking and baking. Her favorite hike was the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, which she completed after her month in Ecuador with CFHI. Her experience with the Global Health in Ecuador (Quito) program solidified her interest in dentistry. She was exposed to dental healthcare in a country outside of the U.S. by shadowing dentists and researching rural versus urban access to dental healthcare in Ecuador.

Clinic rotations & Public Health placements


One of CFHI’s longest-running program sites, this program offers a comprehensive experience that showcases a holistic view of the healthcare systems in Quito, indigenous medicine in Otavalo, and showcases how Ecuadorians access healthcare services.

The following hospitals, clinics, and public health sites are a sample of possible rotations during this program. After acceptance, students can indicate any preferences on their application. The local team does their best to accommodate learners’ preferences, based on local availability and conditions.


Indigenous Medicine Clinic

In the Quito & Otavalo program, participants will rotate for 1 week at the Otavalo indigenous medicine clinic. This clinic is located in an indigenous town about 2-3 hours outside of Quito. It serves patients from all over Ecuador and specializes in combining medicina naturalista or traditional medicine alongside western modalities. Witness Andean healers using herbal medicine and curanderos or spiritual healers who employ traditional diagnostic techniques.


Public Maternity Hospital

Located in the center of Quito, this public hospital of over 400 beds serves pregnant women of all ages from some of the poorest areas in the city. It is also a referral center for high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, and all services provided are free of charge. It is a teaching hospital for medical students and residents, with labor and delivery, emergency, outpatient, and inpatient ward for more complicated cases and post-partum care. Join healthcare teams for morning rounds, followed by rotations at one of the wards mentioned above. While rotating at the outpatient ward, witness healthcare professionals engaging in pre- and post-natal check-ups. This hospital is one of the busiest in the country, thus opportunities to ethically observe labor and delivery and related procedures are frequent.


Government Primary Health Clinic

This small clinic serves low-income populations and is managed by a family medicine physician in a low resource neighborhood in northern Quito. This public facility has a small emergency room, a dentist and a psychologist. Patients come to receive free services such as pediatrics and obstetrics care, preventative medicine and vaccinations. Clinic staff also conducts home visits for patients that cannot travel to the clinic.


Tertiary Care Hospital

With approximately 400 beds, this facility provides services to military staff and families as well as civilians in the central part of Quito. Patients from all over Ecuador are referred to this hospital to receive specialty care. Rotate alongside hospital staff within two of the busiest and most dynamic areas of the facility, the internal medicine and surgical wards.


Meet the Local Team

Dr. Susana Alvear
Dr. Susana Alvear
CFHI Medical Director in Quito

Dr. Susana Alvear - CFHI Medical Director in Quito

The local Medical Director oversees and arranges all clinical and public health-related activities and is also responsible for coordinating healthcare and emergency services for participants as needed. They coordinate a cadre of preceptors who mentor and supervise program participants at both clinical and public/community health sites. Dr. Alvear is the expert on socioeconomic determinants of health in the region and healthcare delivery strategies in low-resource settings.

Dr. Alvear has served CFHI since 1996. She is an accomplished family physician who obtained her MD and specialty certificates in Ecuador. She then completed clinical education courses at the University of New Mexico and workshops at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Alvear teaches at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, where she manages their residency program. Dr. Alvear has participated in several international trips providing healthcare services to countries after natural disasters stricken areas such as Pakistan and Ghana.

Elvira Hinojosa
Elvira Hinojosa
Assistant to the Medical Director

Elvira Hinojosa - Assistant to the Medical Director

Elvira schedules your medical rotations, introduces you to your preceptors and is always happy to help you with any questions or challenges you may face in your medical program.

Patty Ribadaneira
Patty Ribadaneira
Local Coordinator

Patty Ribadaneira - Local Coordinator

The CFHI Local Coordinators manage the logistics of housing, transportation, and cultural immersion throughout the program. They are a valuable resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms, and tips on planning weekend travel.

The Local Coordinator in Quito is a leader of the Academia Latinoamericana de Español, Quito, the language school where students take Spanish classes. Patty Ribadaneira has been supporting visiting students in Quito since 1989. She studied in the U.S. and is aware of the specific needs that students have. Patty is a collaborative, motivational and inspirational leader; she instills confidence in others.


This CFHI program is ideal for participants who are 19 years of age or older with a Beginner 1 Spanish level or above, who have an interest in fields related to maternal & reproductive health, pediatrics & child health, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care, urban/rural comparison, and/or public health. You do not need to be a student to be eligible for this program; mid-career professionals, GAP year learners, and others are also welcome. This program will provide an in-depth overview of maternal & reproductive health, pediatrics & child health, hospital & inpatient medicine, primary health care, urban/rural comparison, and/or public health in Latin America through visits and experiences within hospitals and clinics in Quito. To confirm your eligibility, please read CFHI’s general eligibility requirements.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a global roadmap set forth by the United Nations General Assembly to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the well-being of all individuals by the year 2030. This program highlights the following SDGs:

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What alumni say about this program

Matt R.

“I worked with Dr. Sancho, who is a family care physician. It was really great to see a mix of pediatric and adult patients, as well as the variety of issues that come with primary care. I had a few new experiences this week, such as using a fetal stethoscope to listen to a fetal heartbeat, a skill that has been replaced by…” read more on Matt’s blog.

How to Apply

Create profile

Submit application

Hear back from CFHI team

Complete pre-departure training and requirements


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