Ten students from the Public Health Practice Program traveled to Panama City, Panama on for a group field experience opportunity under the guidance of Dr. Hana Osman and Somer Burke. Aracely Quintero, Director of the USF Health Program in Panama, tailored an immersive experience for the students consisting of three parts: Introduction and history of the Panama Canal, evaluation of the Panama’s health system, and cultural immersion with an indigenous group.
The USF Health Panama Program faculty and staff delivered interesting lectures for the students. Dr. Arlene Calvo, Community and Family Health and Global Health Professor, discussed historical aspects of public health and its impact building the Panama Canal. Dr. Arturo Rebollón, Project Coordinator and USF Health Alumnus, shared his experience in the blood donation system of Panama and joined the group during the visits to primary care level clinics.
The MPH group visited several private and public health hospitals and clinics, including Punta Pacifica Hospital, Children’s Hospital, the National Cancer Institute, and Paraíso Health Center. These visits promoted the discussion and comparison of the health systems of the US and Panama. Other visits included the Peace Corps and the Panama Immunization Program. Panama has 95% vaccination coverage and is recognized as a pioneer in vaccine research and development. The week ended with cultural visits to the Panama Canal and an Emberá indigenous village where students learned about traditional practices of the indigenous community.
“This was an unforgettable experience for me and the students. The contrast between metropolitan Panama City with its multi-million dollar high rise apartments that were constructed only in the last 12 years and its older construction, was striking. Visiting the Panama Canal and learning about the public health implications of having an influx of workers and visitors from all around the world on a previously healthy indigenous population, was a real-life public health eye opener. The highlights for me included visiting the outdoor Smithsonian Tropical Research (outdoor) Institute, and canoeing over to the Emberá indigenous village. At the Smithsonian, sloths were hanging from trees and very large iguanas were resting on tree limbs. At the Emberá indigenous village, we were welcomed by adults and children (dressed in their locally made beaded attire) playing music for us as we were hiking up the mountain leading to the village. The lunch they fixed for us made of locally caught fish and cooked plantains was a culinary delight. This was truly an unforgettable experience” said Dr. Osman.
The Public Health Practice Program offers a MPH degree in online and executive weekend formats. It’s housed in the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice, a vital source for training in the State of Florida.
About USF Health Program in Panama
The USF Health Program in Panama is located in the City of Knowledge, an international complex of organizations dedicated to education, research and innovation. The City of Knowledge also hosts regional offices of the United Nations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Pan American Health Organization, the Peace Corps, Save the Children, and many other international organizations.
The mission of the USF Health & Education International Foundation is to increase collaboration in education, research and patient care between the faculty and students of USF and of academic and research institutions in Panama, as well as other health professionals and organizations throughout Latin America.
For more information about opportunities for international field experiences and other programs in Panama, please contact Stephen Church (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of the Panama Initiative, in the Office of International Programs.
Contributors: Arlene Calvo, Somer Burke, and Hana Osman