USF Health students and physicians embark on an interdisciplinary service-learning trip to Chica, a rural mountain town in Panama
This March members of the USF Health International Health Service Collaborative (IHSC) are choosing to spend their Spring Break conducting health and education activities in Chica, a small mountain town about two hours away from Panama City. The graduate student organization’s tagline “Sustainable Health for the Underserved” is coming to life as students partner with this special Panamanian community to develop innovative and unique ways to support positive health outcomes in the area.
“What makes this service-learning trip especially unique is its true interdisciplinary nature,” said Shivani Gogna, a global health graduate student in the College of Public Health.
“The overall goal of the trip is to continue fostering the community partnership between USF and Chica in order to brainstorm the health needs and desires of this community. It is anticipated that this partnership will help to plan future health projects that are creative, feasible, effective, and sustainable for years to come.”
Nineteen students from the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health are traveling to Chica. They are accompanied by public health alumnus and former IHSC leader Brian Trang and three distinguished internal medicine residents Drs. Kiran Kondaveeti, Andrew Kuykendall, and Brijesh Patel.
The 2014 mission trip is guided by Jaime Corvin, PhD, USF College of Public Health, Department of Global Health; John Sinnott, MD, Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine; and, Lynette Menezes, PhD, USF Health International and Morsani College of Medicine.
Students and faculty are on the ground in Chica for only one week, but plan to offer a lot of services to local residents.
- Setting up a community health clinic, including a pharmacy and access to free gynecological exams
- Teaching health education at the clinic and local primary school
- Working with residents to explore water sanitation in the area
- Mapping out water lines and performing vigorous water testing with a mobile laboratory, and
- Conducting foreign medical aid surveys
The latter effort is part of a larger project that seeks to determine some of the implications of health service trips on foreign communities visited each year by international student health organizations.
For three of the seven days, medical students from the University of Panama partner with the IHSC delegation to survey and enhance health services in Chica.
“This is an exciting relationship established recently and is key to bridging sustainable projects between the Panamanian community and IHSC,” said Kayla Mackanin, a College of Pharmacy student. “It also displays a strengthening and synergistic relationship between USF Health and international partners in Panama.”
This is the IHSC’s second visit to Chica and the students are eager to touch down. After months of preparation, fund-raisers, and research, the group is ready to land in the beautiful country known as “the Hub of Central America.”
Formed in 2005, the IHSC is unique in that it hosts students, faculty, and professionals from the USF Colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, and School of Physical Therapy. The collaborative works together to implement sustainable health projects for underserved populations both locally and around the world, extending the collaborative to communities in Tampa, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Panama.
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USF Health students traveling to Panama include:
College of Public Health
College of Pharmacy
Morsani College of Medicine
College of Nursing
Story and photos courtesy of Shivani Gogna, USF College of Public Health