INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE REPORT

Name of Organization: San Lucas Health Project
Location (city, country): San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala
Dates of your attendance: Summer, 2000
Purpose of site institution (3-4 words): rural clinics, increase access to health care
Is there a language requirement? If so, state language:

Spanish is helpful

Activities available:

patient care
public/community health research

Opportunities appropriate for:

pre-clinical students
clinical students

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 devout people.

  5. 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 go.

  6. 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 weeks.

    Airfare is expensive, but I found tickets for $400 through STA. Start looking early! Guatemala is very cheap to get around and visit.

  7. 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 upcoming summer.

  8. Would you agree to be contacted by other students interested in this site? If so, please give your name and contact information:
    Jeff Greenberg
    E-mail: jgreenb@mail.med.upenn.edu
    Phone: 215-735-6383

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