Student view:

Nate Kauffman: Providing for people in Cusco, Peru

Nov. 20, 2018

Nate Kauffman is a first-year medical student in the College of Human Medicine. He is an '18 alumnus of the Lyman Briggs College and the Honors College where he majored in genomics and molecular genetics, psychology and human biology.

Last March, I was able to travel with my medical service volunteer group, MEDLIFE, to Cusco, Peru. I knew we would be assisting doctors, dentists and other health care professionals to provide much needed care to rural families. What I did not know was what an eye-opening and life-changing experience this would be.

Each day we traveled hours out of the city to isolated communities who had very minimal access to the everyday health services that we take for granted. While we were there, our group was able to provide basic health care including first aid and pain treatment, as well as fundamental hygiene such as dental care, proper hand washing, wound care and more.

A key component of our work was to educate people on how to take care of these types of needs themselves. We distributed items such as toothbrushes and paste, soap, antiseptics and bandages, and then trained them on how to use these items and hopefully prevent other health issues.

Our team also conducted a service project to complete the rebuilding of a home for a family. They were living on dirt floors with a leaky roof and soot on the walls from their cook stove. We repaired the roof, poured new concrete, painted the walls and conducted a good general cleaning.

There are so many amazing takeaways from this trip. Probably the most uplifting part was the fact that these wonderful people have no idea how poor their living conditions are. They are such happy people, dedicated to their families and their simple way of life. Truly a life lesson!

I was so thankful to connect with these Andes Mountain people who are so different than me and spoke a completely different language. They were very welcoming and appreciative of the work we were doing. I was also thankful to meet students from other universities and make lifelong friends.

And, of course, I was able to experience the joy of providing medical care in a clinical setting, even as makeshift as our small tents were. Working in those conditions and helping people will give me the foundation for the rest of my medical career.

On the final day of our trip, we were able to have a fun day and I traveled by bus to Machu Picchu, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. AMAZING!

I am so blessed, and I will never forget this trip.