Alumna Susy living the UWC mission through her work as medical doctor

December 11, 2023

Alumna Susy and patient

Please briefly introduce yourself. 

My name is Susana Montecinos and I am 31 years old. I am from and I live in Concepción, Chile. I studied at UWC Maastricht, Class of 2012. 

What do you miss the most from UWC Maastricht?

The first thing that comes to my mind is all the amazing people that I met during the two years in Maastricht and also living in such a diverse community. It was at times pretty challenging but I think it shaped us into who we are right now. 

What was it like to return for your reunion in July 2023?

Being back home, well my second home in Maastricht, in July was absolutely amazing. I live in Chile, so that’s very far from where my ex-classmates are and it has been very difficult for me to see them after we graduated from UWCM. It was also really great because the reunion showed me that the love that my peers and I have for each other remains intact. It felt like time had not passed. It was wonderful to hear all the life stories of others, to share mine and to see where the different life paths have taken us this far. I just wish the reunion could be longer for us to have more time together.

What was your life path like after graduating from UWCM? 

After we graduated I came back home to Chile and started studying medicine in 2013 and then graduated in 2019. It was a 7-year long programme and I graduated in December 2019. The beginning of my career was very challenging because I entered the medical field and started to work just as the global pandemic rolled out. Now I am working as a general doctor at a community health center. I work with people of all ages but currently, I focus the most on the family medicine approach and I would like to specialize in this in the future, mainly in cancer palliative care.

Can you tell us a bit more about your work in cancer palliative care?

I spend a lot of my working hours with patients with terminal cancer. There are many different approaches to palliative care but in the centre where I work, the care we provide is at the homes of the patients. This makes the relationships with the patients very close, much more intimate, and not just with them but also with their families. That also means that I have to work with a lot of different people. In addition, I am a part of an interdisciplinary team and work closely with nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, nutritionists and others to together improve the quality of life of the patients. We prepare them for the physical changes that come with the end of life, we help them to cope with different thoughts and feelings that might come and we provide a lot of support for their family members and caregivers. In sum, we provide an all-encompassing, integral care.

What role did UWC play in your choice of this career? 

I must say that already before coming to UWC I knew I wanted to be a medical doctor. My mum is a medical doctor and she has always been my role model. During my time at UWCM, I did my CAS service at SGL which is an organization that works with people with brain injury and I got to volunteer there to help and encourage the people there to live as independently as possible and to be active in the community and society in general. I got to work with people that I wasn’t used to interacting with and it was a real challenge. It made me realize that I wanted to help people with their health and help them to have a better life quality. This service helped me to work on my empathy, initiative, leadership skills as well as teamwork. My overall UWC experience made me develop all these skills and equipped me with these tools that I now get to use in my daily work too. 

Would you say that you are living the UWC mission and values?

I do believe that my work is my way of living the UWC mission because I am actively supporting my community, trying to improve their health by preventing and treating diseases also in areas with limited access to healthcare. Thanks to my work I meet and help people from different backgrounds or different beliefs and at times it takes a long conversation to arrive at a shared understanding and find the best treatment option that they would accept. Just as the UWC experience, it is not always easy but it ends up being very rewarding when people appreciate your help and give you a smile or a simple thank you. It is interesting that before UWC I would have said that in Chile we all have the same culture and more or less similar backgrounds and then I spent two years at UWC and acknowledged that even within the same cultures there are differences and UWC helped me to approach and celebrate those differences. 

Have you been involved with the UWC movement in the last 12 years? 

I have been involved with the national committee in Chile right after I got back from Maastricht. I started joining the reunions and at first, I was very involved with my NC but then my studies took over most of my time and then once I was done with my studies the pandemic started. I, however, got to do presentations for prospective students in my city and further in the south of Chile and I was involved in reviewing applications as well. I plan to be involved in the application process this year too.

What would be your advice for alumni who are trying to find their way of living the UWC mission? 

I would say that my advice is more for the new and younger alumni and although it is going to sound like a cliche, I don’t care! I want to say this: Follow your instincts! Go out there and try different things. And if you feel that the life path brought you to a place where you do not want to be, you can always go and explore other things. We all go through different processes and at different paces. I would say that the worst thing is to compare yourself to others. Be patient. 

I remember that when we were at UWC we had all these ideas and dreams about changing the world in a blink of an eye and now I know that it’s just not possible. We were young and idealistic and now we know that it’s not how it works. I can just repeat, be patient because you, UWCM alumni, might not even realize that every action that you take is probably making small changes towards a better world. Once you grow older and look back, you will see that you did well. If you are struggling to find your path, reach out for help, chat with a co-year, or people back at UWCM or reach out to other alumni via the alumni platform: Be patient and kind to yourself.