A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

In terms of health, my term in Colombia has been horribly unsuccessful.

In the first few months after I arrived, I thought that my awful allergic reactions to the pollution in Bogota (that my body was not accustomed to) was me somehow developing asthma. In the Amazon, I caught a less severe form of dengue fever. After returning to Bogota for the second semester of classes in late January, one of my mosquito bites got horribly infected and my throat was once again infected by polluted air in Bogota.
(The medical supply stores in Bogota often features manikins wearing surgical clothing or scrubs.)

I´d like to say that this means I´ve become a pro at navigating the health systems in Bogota, but the truth is that I have very little idea how they operate. When I first started suffering from allergies, I went to the emergency room at a massive hospital a few blocks away from my first apartment. I had no idea how to call a doctor or locate a smaller clinic, so I decided a hospital was my best course of action. After waiting six hours in the waiting room, I changed my mind.

We in Bogota are very lucky because the insurance that we are given through the Fulbright program allows us to take advantage of a very nice opportunities: domicilios.

Domicilios are deliveries. In Bogota, you can have almost anything delivered to your house. The amount of restaurants that will make a “house delivery” is overwhelming, and they stretch well beyond the normal pizza and Chinese takeout options to include places that serve stereotypical Colombian lunches, sandwiches, fried chicken, beer, and just about anything you can think of. When you order something online in Bogota, you´re often actually ordering a domicilio of the item and a man on a motorcycle will show up at your front door the next morning with the item in a ridiculously large box.

Domicilios include medical care.
(I used to leave in a neighborhood full of medical supply stores. I walked past “for sale” dentist chairs every morning.)

After calling, giving your insurance and ID information, describing your symptoms, and providing an address, a doctor or nurse practitioner will show up at your house between fifteen minutes and an hour and a half later. The exam is usually minimal, but will always be followed by the same things:

First, the doctor will offer you an injection of something to help with pain or swelling, but usually pain. Second, the doctor will write out a very, very long list of medications for you to take.

The few times that I´ve gotten a medical domicillio, I´ve received a list of at least four different medication to take. When I had an infected mosquito bite, I was told to ask the pharmacist for a topical antibiotic, an oral antibiotic, some sort of foot-soaking salts, and a pain medication–and all of these medications were supposed to be taken for two whole weeks. When I was suffering from allergies, I was prescribed a pain medication, a medication for my throat, drops for my ears, drops for my eyes, and a secondary pain medication.
(Another fashionable mannequin modeling the latest in medical wear.)

The medications are a little bit more intense than what I´m accustomed to receiving in the United States.

Regardless of how different medical services may seem to me, those of us that are placed in Bogota are fortunate enough to have easy access to medical care. In some of the other, more rural cities in Colombia, the assistants do not have access to a properly equipped hospital that is less than a three to four hour bus ride away.

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu


Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

44 responses to “A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Katrina Lund

      It’s so fascinating learning of how other countries provide healthcare compared to the U.S. Bogota is extremely fortunate to have such convenient access to health services. I am very curious how their pharmaceutical industry is run, being as they prescribe significantly more pills than in America. I wonder if this has become a concern in the nation for things like substance abuse, or how they regulate them in a way that prevents the disheartening rate of addiction to pills we see in the U.S.

  1. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    What an unique perspective you get to share, living in Colombia, with those terrible health issues. I am sorry that you had to go through extra hardships in a foreign place when you were feeling sick, but to think you would never had the opportunity to learn all of what you shared if you were healthy. I plan to work in the medical field as a PA and traveling to other places to work interests me very much, so this article really opened my eyes and gave me a glimpse of what I should expect. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jenna Algoo

    How fascinating! It sounds like a completely different world, yet it reminds me of bitesquad (my mom uses it frequently in the cities). It also sounds strange and annoying to have to take a million different medications, but it’s fantastic that you have access to your medical needs. It sounds like it would be very difficult to navigate the system without it. I hope you feel better!

  3. Emily Ciernia

    This is a really interesting piece! I think that, when traveling to a new place, you don’t really think about the potential health problems that you could get. It’s amazing how different health systems are in different parts of the world. I think the concept of medical care from domiciles is really innovative. Not many people are able to visit a hospital/doctor’s office to get medical help, but if medical professionals come to your house, it makes it a lot easier. This will hopefully make medical care more accessible. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Laura!

  4. Holly Kampa

    Laura, thank you for sharing your experience! I found the concept of domicilios very interesting. Both in the aspect of ordering anything possible but mostly in the lines of medical services. When I think about this concept I think about home health care nurses. These nurse are usually have their scheduled appointments with patients, whereas domicilios are called and “ordered.” I think this is an effective way to go about healthcare. It allows patients to remain home and avoid the frustrations of the emergency room. It’s quite interesting how they go about prescribing medications compared to the US, curious as to why that is? Thanks again for sharing!


  5. Sara Desrocher

    I find this to be a very interesting topic. I have not given much thought into sickness while being abroad but this is something that should be looked into when planning to spend an extended amount of time in another country. I am shocked that people can “order” a medical personal and have them show up at the person’s house shortly after. This seems like it would be very convenient so that people do not have to go to a place with sick people when they have weakened immune systems themselves.

  6. Matt Breeze

    This is so cool! I am sorry that you have had so many health issues while there, but the medical experiences are so different than here. I have no idea how I would even call for a doctor to come to my house here in Minnesota. The willingness to give injections instead of just pills is especially striking. I feel like here in the U.S. injections are one of the last things to be prescribed for pain. I hope you feel better for the last part of the semester!

  7. This was such an interesting post! Coming from a very rural town where not even pizza or Chinese food would deliver, I find it crazy to think that doctors and medications are delivered to your door in Bogota. It seems so efficient to have doctors come to your home to provide care. This would be especially helpful in the US because many elderly people live far from medical facilities and have troubles with transportation. If doctors went to their homes, it would most likely improve the health of the elderly and those who have problems with transportation. Thanks for the great insight!

  8. Sarah Burton

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the medical field in Colombia! I am sorry to hear that you have been getting sick so frequent. This was interesting for me to read because I am currently a nursing student. It is always fascinating to see the differences in health care in different countries. It is kind of strange that they would give you so many different kinds of medication. It would be nice to know the reasoning behind prescribing all of those medications. It is nice that you were able to have great access to health care when you were sick. How weird is it that they do medical deliveries! I have never heard of such a thing.

  9. Connor

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and I’m sorry you had health issues while abroad. Deliveries for medications and house calls are very interesting ideas. I feel like they would be very popular in the United States because trips to the emergency room are usually pretty long and dreadful. Do you have any idea why so many medications are prescribed and injections are administered so freely? It doesn’t seem to be that way in the US.

  10. Roman Schnobrich

    How common is the healthcare you receive as a Fulbright traveler? As an American that sounds borderline crazy, that the medicines and medications you get delivered are as powerful if not more powerful than what you’d receive in the US, as the system sounds less complicated and laid out. Do you think the sickness you’ve experienced are very specific to you and your body, or they common illnesses that fall upon Americans and/or foreigners? I can’t imagine how tired you’ve become of rarely feeling 100%, you must often look back on how it felt to not feel any kind of sickness.

  11. Meghan Lozinski

    The idea of “ordering” a doctor’s appointment and having them show up at your residence is so odd to me but it always makes a lot of sense. So many people who are sick might not be able to get to the hospital easily or conveniently and this seems to solve that problem. It’s interesting though that so much can be delivered. Is this a service for all people?

  12. Kyle Dosan

    Sorry to hear of your allergies and infections in Bogota, interesting article. Allergies and other medical incidents are frustrating and difficult to cure sometimes even in a persons hometown. Very fascinating that you mentioned almost anything can be delivered straight to your house. Also very interesting point made that the doctors in Bogota would prescribe at least four different types of medication just for allergies. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  13. Andrea Ramler

    Thats terrible that you had to experience health concerns while abroad. I can’t imagine going through that and being in a place that you are not as familiar with as the U.S. The health care system there seems to be very unstable and unpredictable. The fact that you order a doctor when you are ill seems to be very unusual. To me this seems to be very unsafe because what if someone else needs serious help and is unable to get it. It also seems as though there are not many that are actually employed through the health care/ very little staff. This is very scary dealing with an illness in Bogota and I am very sorry you had to go through this, thanks for sharing!

  14. Sofia Pineda

    I think that it is truly fascinating to see how different medicine can be practiced in different parts around of the world. Many times when we think about medicine, we immediately think about the ‘western’ practice and their ‘normal’ procedure and the prescriptions they would normally give their patients. Sometimes, in other countries, medicines are made up of more natural components, and maybe because of this the amount of medications needed are more because each serves a very specific purpose. It is very cool to see that Colombia has domicilos that includes health care – I can imagine that this is very useful for people, especially the ones who don’t have easy access to transportation.

  15. Gina Palmi

    The idea that medical care can be “delivered” to your door is somewhat innovative. Instead of having to leave the house when you’re sick, have the doctor come to you. This would work well in a big city but it would also be nice for those that live really far away from town (might not be so nice for the doctor to drive/travel there, however). This would be nice to have in the U.S.

  16. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you for sharing your story, Laura, and I am sorry to hear of your illnesses in Bogota. My major is Nursing here at CSS and looking into the medical techniques and opportunities in other countries has always been an interest of mine. Someday I would like to travel abroad and personally experience medicine in a different aspect as you did. Different countries contain different diseases and to me it is interesting to learn about them.

  17. Jessica Richart

    Such an interesting article! I am in the nursing program, so it is interesting to hear about medical information in other places. Recently when I was in the Philippines I saw how long the waiting line can get in a local hospital. It is crazy to think of how long people have to wait to see someone, especially if that is their only option. I am sorry you have had so many health issues while being there! But it definitely is an interesting experience! Thank you for sharing again!

  18. Jena O'Byrne

    The way Colombians deal with medical care is very interesting to me seeing how here in the U.S. we are accustomed in a different manor. Having a Doctor come to my doorstep and then prescribing four medications is just something you don’t see in the U.S. This is why your article was so fascinating for me to read. Do you think the extensive list of medications they prescribe is correlated to the education of the Doctors? It also shocked me how quickly they are to prescribe a painkiller’s. When here in the U.S. those are only prescribed under specific circumstances. Very interesting story, thank you for sharing and hope your health is good the rest of your travels.

  19. Kyle Hellmann

    You are truly fortunate to have that easy access! I wonder if all those medicine they give you is necessary? Is it more expensive than American Medicine? I also wonder what the strangest thing you can order through domicilios, it is an entertaining thought! Thanks for sharing and I hope you don’t have anymore medical needs!

  20. Nancy Thao

    Thank you for sharing your story! I think one of the things travelers should always be cautious about is how the environment could possibly harm or affect one’s health. I am glad that you were able to receive care from the doctor and nurses. House call or doctors showing up to care for a patient at home may not be as common in the US today, but it definitely made me think of the old times when doctors actually do house calls. From reading your story, are domicilios, specifically medical domicillio considered a privilege or is it normal in Bogota? Did you feel a difference in your connection with the medical domicillio in comparison to visiting a doctor at a hospital or clinic?

  21. Courtney Banks

    I’m so sorry to hear about falling ill while traveling. I’ve been sick for almost every big trip I’ve been on. It’s hard to enjoy experiences when you’re not feeling well. With me going into the medical field, I found this very interesting and eye opening. Thanks for sharing!!

  22. I would be clueless as how to navigate an entirely new healthcare system! The closest thing to a home doctor visit I’ve received was an emergency chiropractic adjustment after I threw my back out. The disparity of the healthcare options seems to be somewhat common to what I’ve experienced here in the United States. My family lives in a very small town and there is only one doctor office there, we either have to drive 30, 40, or 50 miles to reach the nearest hospital. I would find it fascinating to window shop at some of the medical supply stores there, I find medical equipment is interesting to learn about. Thanks for your article!

  23. Thomas Landgren

    Oh my gosh that is one of my fears, getting sick while you are abroad. Thank you for sharing! I found the whole idea of domicillio fascinating i wish we had something like that up in the states, but then again we are in two different cultures. Have you gotten used to the pollution in Bogota yet? Have you been back to the hospital since that first time? How expensive were the pharmaceuticals down there? Great Article!

  24. Thank you for sharing your experience with the Colombian health system. Coming from a country where health care is free, the UK, it is always interesting to hear how other health care systems operate around the globe. As you said, you were fortunate enough to have a health insurance plan that enabled you to access the help of the domicilios. I wonder how this service applies to those who are less fortunate. That being said, in the UK, we have a similar service with local doctors; where they can be sent out to houses in order to prevent too many people from showing up at the doctor’s surgery. Telephone consultations with doctors or nurses are also common, I have used this service many times.

  25. Jacob Carson

    When I was in Brazil I noticed the same thing. I took it for granted until I came back to the United states and realized that I would actually have to go into town myself to get some food and or groceries. It seems like something that our culture would want seeing as we are a nation that wants everything now without having to do any work. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same systems in place in America fairly soon.

  26. Martti Maunula

    Interesting look at the healthcare system in a place other than the United States or Canada. It’s very easy to take for granted our system here and our own knowledge of how to use it. Hopefully, the locals there are a bit more accustomed to using the system and so are able to get help when they need it, but it is still unfortunate that, as you said, many are unable to get it simply because of their financial situation. Interesting to see the difference in what the doctors prescribe, and I’m curious to see if the overall results are the same in Brazil as in North America for how the patient ends up at the end of their medical help.

  27. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t have good health while traveling. It seems like we always get sick at the worst times. It was interesting to hear about your trip to Colombia and their health system. I find it interesting how many medications are given to patients. I feel that that’s definitely different than what it’s like in the U.S where it is harder and a much longer process to receive drugs.

  28. Jodi Moran

    Laura, I love reading these articles that you post! They are always so interesting and are easy to relate to. The idea of domicilios is something that seems so convenient takes the stress out of running around. So is there less traffic in Bogota due to this service? Also, I find it interesting that so many drugs are used at once for treatment, do you know why this is? Nice article, thanks for sharing!

  29. I hope you can continue to hold out, getting sick is defeniitiely not fun, especially when traveling. I learned a bit about services like domicillios in different Spanish-seaking countries in Spanish class. I mostly remember seeing videos of the traveling nurses who came into people’s homes. I would be willing to bet these medical services would be useful for people in more rural areas, but I do not know how far the nurses or doctors are willing to travel. I am glad to hear you receive good health care abroad as well! I hope all goes well for you!

  30. Isabella Williams

    This was so fascinating Laura! I appreciate that you were able to share it with us, but it’s a shame what you had to go through to learn about all of these services! I suppose Moctezuma’s revenge pales in comparison to dengue fever, eh? In any case, the procedure and type of medical system there sounds intriguing. Would you say the medicine worked more effectively or worse than what you would receive here? Why do you think they offer so many different prescriptions at one time?

  31. Bryce Gadke

    The access that Fulbright’s receive is a very good, that could be a convenience that keeps the program working well and not running low on applicants to travel the world. The first time you went to the large hospital for allergies was a long wait that could’ve been avoided. It seemed to me that there was more of a focus on the home deliveries than on actually helping in the hospital. What kind of access did you receive through the Fulbright that citizens might not have gotten? You played on a huge fear of mine, getting sick while abroad or traveling in general.

  32. Nick Campbell

    I found it very interesting reading about the medical field of Bogota. The idea of how intense the medications were in Bogota is very interesting to me. The list of medications you had to take for allergies seemed very over the top. However, I did like the idea of a full spectrum delivery service of sorts.

  33. This reminds me of how my grandmother spoke of medical care during her era. When she got sick they would call the local doctor and he would come over with a medical bag and such. I wonder why they prescribe so much more medication then they do in the US. I have also never seen a medical supply store like that. Why would the average person need a medical supply store?

  34. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    Thanks you again for sharing your insight into another culture! What I found so interesting about this post was there forward thinking when it came to groceries and medical care, however when it came to getting diagnosed, they are behind the times. I guess I can’t say for sure, but I assume taking 4 or 5 medications at once is not good for your body. I know personally I have many food allergies as well as seasonal allergies, so at times some of my medications may overlap. Whenever this is the case my doctor would treat carefully with the medication, however it doesn’t appear as if this is the case in Columbia!

  35. Samantha Wollin

    What an interesting article! I’m sorry that you got sick during your time in Colombia, but you would have never had any of these experiences if you weren’t sick! I find it really interesting that you can “order” medical professionals to come to your house. I know when I don’t feel well I really don’t want to get into a car and drive to the hospital, so I think it’s nice that people can stay in their homes!

  36. Mike Zupfer

    Reading about the differences in medical care and what is provided/not provided is always interesting when you compare it to the United States. Its interesting to think about medicine being delivered to your door like food service does when they deliver, however, i do not fancy the idea of taking all those meds that they have to take for 1 or 2 problems. I would much rather go to a doctors office here then have to deal with a lot of medication. Thanks for sharing the piece!

  37. I wonder why it is that domicilios are an unfamiliar thing to most of us in the United States? It seems like a logical progression for a developing society. Of course, our medical system is struggling too much for how advanced we are as it is, and I don’t know if we could spare the staff to send home delivered medical care on the regular. I DO wish more food places delivered, though! Thank you for sharing your stories.

  38. Catherine McConnell

    This is a very interesting article. Not only did I enjoy looking at these quirky medical supply stores I thought the Domicilios is a very neat idea that would be so nice if we had it here. I also did not know that you can be allergic to pollution. It is incredible how pollutants in the air can cause such an adverse effect to you. I am sorry that you have had so many medical problems but it did inspire you to write this important article.

  39. Andrew Bailey

    Hello Laura, thank you for sharing your experience of the medical practice in Colombia. I have personally never heard of Domicilios before, and it is interesting that the businesses are willing to make their products readily available to their customers (whether this be for take out food or medical treatment). You mentioned that the insurance you have includes Domicilios, so I wonder if these services are provided to you at no additional charge, or if there are some out of pocket costs that you must cover. I also find it interesting that most hospitals and medical supply stores have mannequins out front; what an intriguing display to have outside your shop!!

  40. Alexis McCort

    Hi Laura,
    What an interesting read! As a nursing major and someone who has studied in South America, I was absolutely amazed to read about the healthcare you received in Colombia. It made me think of our Tignor history book where we have learned about the black death plague. It made me think of how a plague would impact different places, like Colombia, that have such a different approach to healthcare. It is interesting to think about! Thanks for sharing!

  41. Claudina Williams


    Your article was an interesting piece to read. Navigating the healthcare system in other cultures can be a challenge, and I think that especially true when there is a language barrier. In general, I think traveling alone to another culture and coming across problems can be a stress indorser. From what I read, it sounded like you managed the situation well. You mentioning waiting in the waiting for six hours reminded me of my hospital experience in Haiti. The last time I was there, my cousin had to go to the hospital and we waited in the waiting room for hours. I guess the reason why we ended up waiting this long was that the doctor we had to see was stuck in traffic. Being stuck in traffic is a common problem in Haiti. Cars often idle for several minutes or are moving very slowly. Thank you for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.