Becoming a Dominican Doctor

Poverty hindered a young man’s dream of becoming a doctor, but God provided a way.

Ramón Castillo smiled as he thought about his family. His three boys were fine young men. His beautiful wife loved God with all her heart. His middle son, Ariel, had wanted to become a doctor, but they didn't have the money to send him to school, and there weren't a lot of opportunities for a poor kid with dreams in the Dominican Republic.

Just when hope started to fade, Ariel learned that through the Compassion program at his local church, he would be able to attend medical school. Compassion had found him a sponsor who would pay his tuition. He would also receive leadership classes and go to schools to talk to kids about Jesus.

There was now a chance for 20-year-old Ariel to fulfill his dream. But life was still hard. He got up at 4 a.m. to ride the bus from the town of Moca to the university in Santiago where he studied medicine. Sometimes he had to wait an hour and a half for the bus to even arrive. He usually got home after 10 p.m. and studied deep into the night.

His father realized there was a way he could help make his son’s education easier. Ramón had just inherited a patch of land in Santiago. That’s where he would move his family. He and his boys would hand-build a house on that land and continue to create a better life.

Ramón had lived in Moca for almost 30 years. The palms swayed in the warm Caribbean breeze around his home and he thought about how a father’s love is strong, rooted like the trees. Then his hands started to shake. He lifted them to his cheeks to wipe away tears. God’s way of providing always humbled him.

Follow Ariel to see what life was like for a medical student in the developing world.

Settled into their unfinished home in Santiago, each morning Ariel’s mother, Valentina Castillo Traveras, led the family in praise and devotions to commit their day to the Lord. They met in Ariel’s bedroom where he played piano while his brother Emmanuel played drums.

Before 7 a.m. each weekday, Ariel brushed his teeth in the backyard and took a shower next door at his uncle’s house. Then he and his family ate breakfast together before Ariel had to walk to the bus stop. The 15-minute ride to the Technological University of Santiago was much easier than the long trek from Moca.

Mastering English is essential for Dominican doctors since most research papers and books are written in English. Here, Ariel talked to his English professor before class began.

Around 11:45 a.m., Ariel rode the bus home to eat lunch with his mother and brothers. Round-trip bus fare cost 10 Dominican pesos, about 21 U.S. cents at the time. It was worth it to get meals like la bandera Dominicana, or the Dominican flag, the national dish made from rice, beans, spices, tomatoes and meat.

Ariel attended a physiology class in the afternoon. Then he returned home from school and walked 20 minutes along the highway to church. The Castillo Traveras family was passionate about their faith and ran church activities seven days a week. Valentina was the pastor, and Ariel sometimes played drums.

Crouched over a dim kerosene lamp, Ariel started studying for his classes after church around 10 p.m. He and other Dominicans received about 12 hours of electrical power per day. After studying, Ariel said his prayers to thank God for His mercies before going to bed.

Ariel graduated from medical school in 2012. He now works as an emergency doctor at a hospital in Santiago. “I am very satisfied with my career,” he says. “What satisfies me the most is when I see the results in my patients, when I see their recovery.”

Ariel married a cardiologist, Yara Maria Diaz Vasquez, in December 2016. They are building their own home on top of his father’s house and hope to have children soon. “I know that the reality is that without the help of Compassion and the church, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to study medicine,” he says. “I wouldn’t be a professional. I wouldn’t be the person I’ve become.”

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August 2017

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Becoming a Dominican Doctor

Poverty hindered a young man’s dream of becoming a doctor, but God provided a way.

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