Osteopathic students prepare for Peru medical adventure
EAST LANSING, Mich. — About 25 College of Osteopathic Medicine students spent Saturday packing more than $100,000 worth of medical supplies into 40-pound suitcases for an upcoming trip to Peru, where they will spend a week practicing medicine and immersing themselves in international health.
The July 31 to Aug. 11 trip to the village of Huamachuco is being led by Gary Willyerd, associate dean for the college's Detroit campus. On Saturday, Willyerd oversaw students as they packed - and in some cases re-packed - medical supplies into suitcases, ever mindful of weight limits imposed by airlines.
"The area of Peru we are visiting is a Third World country, where 60 percent of the population does not routinely have access to health care," said Willyerd, who will be making his fourth medical service trip to Peru and third visit to Huamachuco, an 18-hour bus ride north of Lima and high in the Andes Mountains at 10,000 feet.
"What makes this trip so inspiring is that the students get to be very hands on; we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of the villagers."
Nearly 1,000 pounds of supplies - from ibuprofen to syringes to topical ointments - will be taken as part of the trip. Students raised money throughout the past year for the supplies, which were purchased for about $12,000 from charitable organizations.
Once in Peru, the students will work alongside physicians, providing health care to patients. By the end of their trip, students will have applied lessons they have learned in the classroom, as well as gained knowledge of diseases common to South America that are not seen in America.
Medical student Joe Gorz, one of the student advisers for the trip, has made the trip to Peru two previous times.
"Some of the health areas we really focus on are neonatal health and pediatrics," he said. "Many of the women in this region have never had a gynecological exam, and most of the children have never seen a doctor. So many routine things that we take for granted here aren't available there; we can really make a difference."
After arriving in Lima on July 31, the group will travel to the city of Trujillo and visit its medical school and teaching hospital, learning more about international health care systems. Upon arriving next in Huamachuco, the students and physicians accompanying them will spend the next five days operating a medical clinic and visiting Peruvians at their homes.
For second-year student Kim Carter, working with patients from Peru will be challenging yet rewarding.
"Communicating with people of a different culture in a different language will be eye-opening and very beneficial," she said. "I am looking forward to breaking down those barriers."
MSU has a continuing presence in Huamachuco, from the medical trips to other research endeavors, including efforts by College of Engineering students to build a solar water heater for the hospital in Huamachuco to studying water quality issues.
As part of the medical mission, students are coordinating with researchers at MSU on two separate projects: a pediatric anthropometry project led by Joe Eisenmann of the Department of Kinesiology and a water microbiology study led by Joan Rose of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
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