Ecuador is one of the few Latin American countries to explicitly guarantee sexual and reproductive health rights in their constitution and has passed legislation to provide free emergency contraception. In 1998, Ecuador passed the Free Maternity Law providing free healthcare for pregnant women and newborns. Although Ecuador has some of the most progressive laws regarding sexual and reproductive health in Latin America, a dichotomy exists in this predominantly Catholic and largely socially conservative country.
Learn about reproductive healthcare in Ecuador, where limited discussion and openness regarding sexual health issues and lack of funding predominate. Witness how cultural attitudes toward gender equality affect a woman’s willingness and ability to seek treatment or obtain information about reproductive and sexual health. Rotate at a public maternity hospital where high-risk pregnancies are managed. Here, services provided include prenatal and postnatal care, labor and delivery and emergency care. Other rotations include an adolescent clinic, where pregnant patients and new mothers between the ages of 12 and 18 are treated, as well as a primary healthcare center providing women’s health services such as pap smears, IUDs, etc.
Become immersed in Ecuadorian culture and language through conversational and medical Spanish classes while living with a local family in Quito. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to destinations such as Tena in the Amazon region, known for its waterfalls and adventure sports like kayaking and zip lining, the town of Mindo and its subtropical forest, and Otovalo, an indigenous community with a bustling weekly market.
Clinical Rotations & Public Health Placements
Outpatient Obstetrics Rotation- A community clinic in northern Quito offering primary healthcare services, pediatric and obstetrics and gynecological services. This rotation focuses solely on obstetric services. Join a local obstetrician in providing free services to low and middle class patients. Join activities alongside the on-site preceptor in the clinic such as prenatal check ups, general obstetrics consult, which can include focused physical exams, differential diagnosis and discussing treatment options with patients. In addition, participate in home visits providing care to women on bed rest due to complications such as placenta previa.
CFHI is considered a global health ethics leader therefore CFHI programs uphold strict standards and comply with all local laws regarding student involvement in health settings. Your experience on the program depends on your previous clinical training (if applicable), Spanish level, and the relationship you build with your supervising preceptor. Above all, YOU are the most important factor in making the CFHI experience as fulfilling as possible by being respectful, inquisitive, and open to the wide variety of learning experiences which you will encounter.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. It was 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 capitals 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.
Things to Do
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 thus 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.
Accommodations & Homestays
Participants stay with homestay families, chosen and screened by the CFHI Local Coordinator and language school. Homestays are located in a middle class residential neighborhood in the northern part of Quito. They are located in close proximity to one another and the language school, allowing participants to walk to language classes and meetings with ease. In some cases CFHI participants may be housed with others in the same homestay, but will always have their own room.
Homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodation includes two meals a day and laundry once a week. At the welcome orientation participants will be instructed on recommended transportation from homestays to clinical rotations and getting around the city.
Eligibility: Who Can Apply?
This CFHI program is ideal for students who have a foundation in Spanish and have an interest in health and medicine in small town and rural settings. Non-students are also eligible. The program offers an overview of primary and secondary level care through visits within a hospital and primary care clinics, as well as Spanish language classes with an emphasis on medical Spanish. To confirm whether you're eligible to apply, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.
Minimum Language Required: Beginner 1 Spanish or Above
Beginner 1 Spanish: “I can speak a little and understand at times if people speak slowly and clearly.”
- I can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and simple phrases to get across basic needs.
- I can introduce others and myself. I can ask and answer questions for example where I live, people I know and things I have.
Leading this program on-site are our on-site partners (see Local Team tab), all of whom share Spanish as their native language, but may speak English as well. To provide authentic learning experiences translators are not provided. Daily interactions will be in Spanish, but CFHI’s local team is able to support and help you through your experience.
All CFHI participants applying to programs in Latin America will evaluate their Spanish language skills as part of their application. This information will then be shared with the on-site partners. Most important is your general ability to communicate verbally with those around you and to be proactive in speaking Spanish, versus accuracy with grammatical tenses. All CFHI Latin America programs include Spanish language instruction on-site.
Not sure about your Spanish level? View a full list of CFHI’s language levels for all Latin America programs on our Spanish Level Guidelines page.
Participants should arrive in Quito, Ecuador on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival.
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.
- Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
- Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.
- Pre-Departure training including historical, geopolitical, cultural, ethical and other need-to-know preparatory info
- Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to homestay in Quito with local CFHI representative
- Welcome orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
- Spanish Classes: 35 hours/month of Spanish classes, including medical Spanish instruction and cultural activities
- Weekly meetings and lectures on local healthcare system and socio-economic determinants of health
- Accommodation, two meals a day, and laundry services once a week
- CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
- Placement and coordination of clinical rotations/public health activities
- Welcome dinner, city tour and cultural activities through language school
- Local cell phone
- International emergency medical and evacuation insurance
- CFHI Alumni status- including ongoing global health educational offerings, news about global health educational/leadership opportunities and fellowships
- Post-Return program evaluation
- Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems. Read more.
Meet the Local Team
Dr. Susana Alvear - CFHI Medical Director in Quito. The role of the Medical Director is to arrange clinical and public health placements, supervise the participant experience at these sites, and provide instruction on healthcare topics during weekly meetings. 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.
Rosita Tamayo - CFHI Local Coordinator in Quito: The role of the local coordinator is to organize housing, transportation, orientation and weekly meetings. Rosita is a great resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms and tips on planning weekend travel.
Rosita has served CFHI since 1998. Rosita is co-founder and owner of the language school that CFHI participants attend and also regularly hosts CFHI students from in her home. She participated in an intercultural exchange as a young student, and lived the United States for a year. Rosita graduated from the Universidad Central del Ecuador with a degree in International Relations. Rosita has a passion for volunteerism and supporting underserved communities.
What Alumni Say
“Initially the biggest difference between this hospital and those in the US was that there were so many patients in one room, all of them laboring together. One morning I counted 13 patients packed into the main room! The patients would stay in this room until just before they were ready to deliver, and then…” read more on Megan’s blog.
-- Megan Bright (CFHI Reproductive Health Program Participant, October 2011)