Meet the Students


Lindsay Bechtel
Hometown: Sarasota, FL
Would like to specialize as: Nurse Practitioner
Lessons from Panama: My career interests since panama have expanded…I’ve always wanted to be a neonatal nurse practitioner, but I could honestly see myself doing Womens Health or Pediatrics now… either way I plan on continuing my education after graduating from nursing school to become a nurse practitioner.

Caitlin Brock
Hometown: Riverview, FL
Would like to specialize in: Cardiac care or Geriatric Nursing
Biggest lesson in Panama: We are so fortunate to have the health care resources that we have in the U.S.. I really wish that the resources could be as plentiful in Panama and in all countries.

Caitlin’s Favorite Panama Photo: This was one of my favorite experiences while in Panama, the labor & delivery day.

Tara V. Casimir
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Would like to specialize in: Undecided. Possibly Cardiac Care, Critical Care or Oncology
Biggest lesson in Panama: We are more alike than different. We all want the same things…a productive life, healthy offspring,family and acceptance. I also gained more confidence in myself and my abilities. I would do this all over again in a heartbeat!

Tara’s favorite Panama Photo: This is my favorite photo because it shows to me how far I have come. I used to hate needles!!! This was actually the first injection I administered in Panama, as well as the first “butt” shot I have ever given. By the end of the trip, I must have administered over 150 injections…

Tania Lynn Cruickshank
Hometown: Boca Raton, Florida
Would like to specialize as: Family Health Nurse Practitioner
Biggest lesson in Panama: Our three-week ‘study abroad’ in Panama was truly a memorable and enriching experience! Excellence in nursing education can be found next door, but to travel across the ocean and seek best practices in a different culture opened the door to a deeper meaning of what the USF College of Nursing is all about. I will be better able to understand the culture of my Hispanic patients and give them more appropriate care. I also will have a more open mind about cultural differences in health care. The experiences of studying abroad in Panama offer a world of new and friendly people, places of beauty that words can not describe, and a culture with as many similarities as well as differences to our own. This experience has not only taught me a lot, but it has given me a new perspective that will enrich and enhance my professional career forever.

Tania’s favorite Panama picture: This photo taken in Arraiján is my favorite because it was one of the few days that we all did patient care together at the same location. We went to the school called “February 13th”. Yes, that’s right, a date is the name of the school; it’s a Panama thing! Each one of us had a different experience that day, with hands-on experience with at least two or more of the following: administered Polio, Influenza, Pentavalente, Hepatitis or MMR vaccines, visits to homes nearby to educate people about where mosquitoes breed and how to prevent various diseases. We also did pap smears (our first), conducted surveys about HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and checked blood pressure. What a day! We all felt like we really made a difference!

Christine Doherty
Hometown: North Attleboro, MA
Specialty: Undecided, possibly Pediatrics
Biggest lesson in Panama: I learned to not be so stressed and to take in every moment that is thrown at us. The nurses and students were so full of life and energy. There were some amazing experiences and there were some not-so- glorious experiences, but every part of the trip was a lesson. I learned not to worry about what is going to happen next, because it is all going to work out in the end. It was an amazing three weeks and I am so fortunate to have been a small part of such an amazing trip.

Christine’s Favorite Panama Photo June 31, 2008. This photo was taken during our Health Fair in Arraiján. The girls were so thankful of all of our services.

Jessica Ann Dorey
Hometown: Tampa, Fl.
Would like to specialize in: Cardiac and Women’s health
Biggest lesson in Panama: Learning their culture’s practices about health care was amazing. I was most in awe of how medical teams (including doctors, psychiatrist, nutritionist and a nurse) make visits to schools to evaluate children. We don’t do that here in the U.S. I found it very impressive that they would do that for all school-aged children.

Jessica’s favorite Panama picture: … It’s my favorite photo because of the moment’s indescribable feeling. There’s nothing more precious in this world than a new life. I’m a firm believer in the sanctity of life and seeing and holding new life was beyond gratifying.

Alexandra Mae “Lexa” Henry
Hometown: Lutz, Florida
Would like to specialize in: Labor & Delivery (“I will be a midwife one day!”)
Biggest lesson in Panama: LIFE is an incredible journey that you only get to live once so soak it up, do everything you can conquer, and be blessed for what God has allowed you to achieve…dream as if you will live forever and live as though you will die today.

Lexa’s favorite Panama picture: This experience has taught me so much. Most importantly, it taught me that I am only a minute part of this world but a simple helping hand can go so far… I chose this picture because I would love to help make the world a better place and I would love to do it with arms wide open. I think this picture depicts an example of how much world is out there.

Shadae Llewelyn
Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Would like to specialize as: Nurse Anesthetist
Biggest Lesson in Panama: …that I should be thankful for everything I have. Panama was such an eye opening experience. Also, learning that the average life span in Panama is age 50 is around the age of 50 is shocking to me. There are so many health care issues that are not addressed at all and many women are dying of breast cancer because it is not caught early enough.

Shadae’s Favorite Panama Picture: I had a hard time deciding which photo was my favorite…this is one of them…taken of our group walking through a rural community, going door to door giving out free vaccines. I love this picture because that day was our way of having a direct and positive impact on the community.

Jessica Alisha Meerbott
Hometown: Tampa, FL
Would like to specialize as: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Biggest Lesson in Panama: This trip allowed me to really appreciate everything in my life. Sometimes we get lost in the day-to-day…Life is much more simple than we realize. Good health, family, and friends make all the difference in a person’s happiness. This trip has made me more excited to be a nurse. In fact, I cannot wait!

Jason Merry
Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL
Would like to specialize in: Neurology
Biggest Lesson in Panama: Diversity! Healthcare is not set in stone…there may be a ‘best practice’ for a procedure, but healthcare is not a step by step process. People, places and situations will always be different. Understanding this concept and being able to adapt to the situation, I hope, will make me a better nurse for the patient population for which I care for.

Jason’s Favorite Panama Photo: We were at the school called ‘February the 13th’. I chose this picture because of the multiple experience we, as a team, were able to participate in. The memories taken away from this school will not be forgotten…

Lydia Pendino

Cristina Penzabene

Courtney Rice
Hometown: Okemos, MI
Would like to specialize in: Labor & Delivery or Neonatalogy
Biggest lesson in Panama: When we were watching the women in labor, I found it amazing how well they were handling it. They were without so much of the technology and analgesics that are commonplace in the United States and I don’t think I heard more than one little shout.

Courtney’s Favorite Panama Photo: This picture was taken during the Health Fair in Arraiján on June 31, 2008. These nice gentlemen were our police escorts.

Melissa Skrzypek
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Would like to specialize in: Pediatrics
Biggest lesson in Panama: This trip reinforced why I chose the nursing profession. I always knew I wanted to help others, and visiting Panama showed me that there are people all around the world who are in need of medical attention. This makes me want to travel abroad again to help others who are less fortunate.

Melissa’s favorite Panama Picture: This was my favorite picture because when I stepped off the bus at a school, I was greeted warmly by many children…I experienced so much love and warmth from total strangers that my heart was filled with compassion for them. For the children, this was the highlight of their day… for me, this was the most memorable part of my trip.

Erin Elizabeth Smith (photographed w/Dean Patricia Burns)
Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Would like to specialize in: Critical Care Nursing
Biggest lesson in Panama: …biggest thing I took away from Panama was to truly be thankful for what you have. Often times we find ourselves complaining about minor annoyances when there are people out there who have way less than what we have and they are happy.

Erin’s Favorite Panama Picture:This photo was taken during the inaguration dinner for the USF Health International Foundation on June 2. It is my favorite because it was of all my ‘roomies’ (Maternal Health Group) having a good time. I got a chance to get to know 4 other girls very well… I enjoyed living with them and i couldn’t have asked for better roomies!
Maternity Health Group- Summer 2008. From L to R: Lindsay Bechtel, Courtney Rice, Tara Casimir, Erin Smith and Jessica Meerbott.

Coverage by Lissette Campos, USF Health Communications

Note to readers: Student profiles will be updated with incoming photos & quotes.