It’s important to remember that in many places, both within the U.S. and abroad, basic services in healthcare may not be available. We must continually work to try to bring greater access to healthcare for underserved populations. With this in mind, Jill Aragon (VUSM Alumna) and several classmates organized a Spring Break trip in 2010 to Managua, Nicaragua to learn about the world of medicine and healthcare outside of the United States.
Since then, the trip has become an annual Global Health elective course and has expanded to include nursing students and faculty as well (and graduate and undergraduate students). In 2013, six medical students, twelve nursing students, and two faculty members carried on this service tradition. Students worked at the national Ophthalmology Hospital in Managua on a variety of projects such as distributing eyeglasses, educating patients about chronic disease and nutrition, and screening patients for diabetes and hypertension. We brought supplies such as glucometers, scrubs, shoes, clothes and surgical instruments to local hospitals. Students also spent time at La Mascota (the Childrens’ Hospital of Managua) and the group also travelled to Granada to see patients in a local primary care clinic known as La Clínica Alabama.
Aside from volunteering, we made trips to a variety of sites around the country to appreciate its incredible, untouched, natural beauty. We ventured to the colonial capital of Granada, explored Lake Nicaragua by boat, and even climbed and went boarding down the Cerro Negro volcano. As the trip came to a close, we spent our last day relaxing on the beach along the pristine coast of the Pacific Ocean.
The service project is intended to be an opportunity for Vanderbilt students to work alongside our counterparts in Nicaragua to help provide medical care, resources, and health education, and to learn from each other. This trip represents a unique opportunity to experience the challenges of global health and the obstacles of providing care in a resource-limited environment. Over the past four years, we have developed lasting relationships with these healthcare institutions, and each year the opportunities to engage in meaningful service have grown.
You do not have to know how to speak Spanish to participate (although it is helpful!); all that you need is an interest in global health and a sense of adventure.
For more information, contact Dr. Lindy Fenlasonlindy.fenlason@Vanderbilt.Edu