David Flood: A Life’s Work in Indigenous Guatemala: Unlocking Medical Care for the Underserved

Bryn Mawr College’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program provides a rigorous and highly prestigious one-year program for those interested in applying to medical school but lack the required undergraduate prerequisite courses. In the summer of 2015, new alumni feature stories were written for use on the program’s recently re-designed website, targeting prospective applicants.

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“It just isn’t fair that where you happen to be born determines whether you get sick, if you get access to the quality medical care and if you end up surviving,” said David Flood, who completed Bryn Mawr’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical program in 2009. “We live in an age in which amazing medical discoveries are made every day, yet many sick people just get locked out.”

Flood, who is now a resident in adult internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, attended and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 2015 after completing Bryn Mawr’s Postbac program.

His residency focus is designed to prepare him to continue his work with the Maya Health Alliance, a non-governmental organization that facilitates excellence and linguistic competence in medical care delivery in indigenous Guatemala.

The organization operates 10 clinics throughout rural central Guatemala and reports approximately 20,000 patient visits a year. The communities it serves lack quality medical care. Patients speak the country’s indigenous languages and frequently face difficulties communicating with Spanish-speaking healthcare professionals.

Flood began working with the organization in medical school and has since learned the Mayan language, Kaqchikel, through immersion and with the help of a local tutor.

“This work in Guatemala has become my life,” he said. “I knew since before I applied to med school that I wanted to work in global health, and seeing firsthand the issues indigenous Guatemalans living in remote areas face has solidified my decision to base my life’s work here. Most of our patients in Guatemala have never talked to a doctor in their own language, and so for me it is such a privilege and joy to serve them.”

Flood plans to remain connected to the work in Guatemala during his residency, with the eventual goal of returning to continue his leadership role with the organization while also providing clinical care. He plans to help expand the organization, serve more patients and partner with other organizations and the government to help influence care in the country.

For the person with an undergraduate degree in finance and a career trajectory on Wall Street, Flood now sees his career path as coming full circle. He looks back on his time at Bryn Mawr and credits the program and staff for setting the parameters for him to succeed in this new direction.

“Some of the things I’m working on, like raising capital and seeking investors for the program, tie right back to my finance training,” he said. “At Bryn Mawr, you’re immersed in this environment where all of the other students are just as motivated and passionate as you are, and the advisers have seen so many students in your situation and can show you how to put the pieces together – its just one year to a whole new path.”

Photo credit: Bryn Mawr College, courtesy of Daniel Agee