In August 2022, seventeen Physician Assistant students, two Occupational Therapy students, two Physician Assistant faculty members, two nurses, and two non-medical volunteers traveled to Zacapa, Guatemala for one week.
The students, along with in-country interpreters and a local physical therapist, were able to offer basic healthcare and health education to 550 medical and therapy patients in five different communities. Partnering with Hearts in Motion, an international organization whose mission is to provide quality medical care and assist in the development of social programs to improve the health, education, and welfare of the people they serve in the US, and South and Central America, the students gained first-hand experience of medical care in an area with limited medical resources. Common problems encountered included dehydration, headache, gastrointestinal diseases, and chronic joint pain in addition to chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.
Through this experience, students were able to gain a deeper understanding of the role social determinants of health play in healthcare accessibility and outcomes that may be difficult to appreciate in the classroom setting.