||San Lucas Health Project
||San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala
of site institution (3-4 words):
||rural clinics, increase access to health care
a language requirement? If so, state language:
Spanish is helpful
public/community health research
- Please describe your activities while abroad (eg, seeing
patients, clinical research, public health project, etc.):
I designed a project that involved interviewing rural Health
Promoters that had been trained by the mission. Together
with Dr. McCloy, I designed a set of questions to gather
information on what these rural health care volunteers were
doing, and why they were or were not successful in improving
access to health care in small rural communities. My goal
was to figure out why this two year old project was not
working as well as planned.
In addition, I spent some days participating in mobile
clinics with other medical students there. Together with
a couple of visiting doctors, we would pile into a pick-up
truck with a lot of medicine and head off to rural villages
to see patients.
- Please describe the range of activities available,
in addition to yours:
There are many public health projects to work on. Many of
these will require a student to work with one of the active
doctors to design a project. Health care resources are lacking
in this area, as is information on what people know and
believe about their health. There is a lot to be done!
Mobile clinics are a great way to practice history and
physical skills and get a good look at the common diseases
and problems in poor rural areas.
- Would you recommend this institution to other Penn
medical students? Why?
Yes, for the above reasons. I was given a lot of independence
to carry out my project. People tend to leave you alone,
and you can really organize your time as you see fit. The
mission out of which the San Lucas Health Project is base
is well connected to the town and surrounding communities.
Therefore, it is a great base from which to really get to
know the health care issues of an underdeveloped region.
In addition, the town is located on Lake Atitlan, one
of the most beautiful regions of the world I have ever
seen. It is not far from popular tourist areas of Guatemala.
- What did you not like?
Having a lot of independence can be a problem at times.
I was not given as much guidance as I would have liked.
Everyone at the mission goes about his/her business in a
very dedicated, independend fashion. You need to go down
with a lot of determination and emotional strength. The
first week was not easy!
The San Lucas Mission is Catholic, but religious affiliation
is neither required nor expected. I was one of several
Jews there at the time, and we were welcomed. You need
to get used to being in a religious environment with very
- Is there an application process for this institution?
How does one arrange a visit? Are there important dates
to know about?
Best to get in touch with Dr. McCloy several months in advance.
I do not think there is any application; just a will to
- What costs were associated with the trip, other than
transportation. Please include institutional fees, housing
costs, food, etc.:
The mission houses and feeds volunteers. The housing
is not great; but most volunteers are happy enough. The
food is fine, not spectacular. Many volunteers give a donation
to the mission, but this is optional. I gave $300 for six
Airfare is expensive, but I found tickets for $400 through
STA. Start looking early! Guatemala is very cheap to get
around and visit.
- Did you receive funding for this trip? If so, from
whom and for how much? Please provide important information,
such as contacts, application procedure, and due dates:
I got $2500 from the David E. Rogers Fellowship from
the New York Academy of Medicine. This fellowship is for
first year medical students to pursue a project related
to community health. They stress that you must have a mentor
under whom you will work. I got the fellowship, but I think
they really want a stronger tie to a mentor than I had.
This is difficult to find at the mission, because there
was nobody who lived there permenantly who I thought would
be a good mentor.
Talk to Lynn Seng about the fellowship. The application
took some time and was due at the end of March for the
- Would you agree to be contacted by other students interested
in this site? If so, please give your name and contact information:
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