Mount Union PA Students take Service Learning Trip to Guatemala

April 26, 2018

GUATEMALA – Students and faculty in the Physician Assistant Studies (PA) graduate program at the University of Mount Union traveled to Guatemala in December for a service learning trip where they spent one week improving the lives of families and individuals in need.

This was not the first trip members of the PA program made to Guatemala. In May 2017, one faculty member, Roger Kunes, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, and five recent PA graduates who were students at the time, Nick Hendershot M ’17, Mandy Schneider ’17, Ashly Wyrick M’17, Jackie Murrer M’17 and Justin Albright M’17, spent a week in San Raymundo, Guatemala.

PAs with child

The six from the Mount Union team were part of a 50-person team who assisted with a women’s health clinic. Through the clinic, they were able to see 223 patients and assist with a number of tests and surgeries.

“My experience practicing medicine in San Raymundo helped me hone my physical exam skills and medical intuition without the use of many diagnostic images and labs,” said Hendershot. “I use my skills every day in my current role as an emergency medicine PA where expensive testing can quickly become a crutch over a proper examination. In San Raymundo, we learned to overcome cultural and language barriers to provide medical care and advice, preparing us for our future careers as providers in all fields of medicine.”

For both trips, Mount Union partnered with humanitarian organization Refuge International located in Longview, Texas. The organization is dedicated to helping to improve the lives of people in need in Guatemala.

A team of 12 people, 10 students and two faculty members, traveled to Sarstun, Guatemala this past December. The trip allows students to receive a clinical and surgical experience with helping to improve and grow their skills and their confidence as PAs.

Surgical procedure

The team members for the trips were faculty members Kunes and Wendy Kissinger, and the students were Erica DeAngelo M’18, Ryan Delbene M’18, Elise Baldarelli M’18, Megan Semans M’18, Lauren Liegl M’18, Sarah Labarre M’18, David Wisdom M’18, Eva Paoloni M’18, Ashley Heins M’8 and Alissa Aylward M’18.

It took a flight to Guatemala, a 10-hour bus ride and a one-hour boat trip for the team to reach its destination, where its members joined a 25-person team in providing medical and surgical care to the people of Sarstun and other surrounding villages. They stayed on the top floor of a clinic built by Refuge International.

The students who took part in the trip helped to treat patients with common medical problems. While they were assisting in the treatment of the patients, the students were sufficiently supervised by experienced members of the Refuge International team.

“When Mount Union’s PA students participate in a third-world experiential learning trip, there is a great potential they will forever be changed,” said Kunes. “As we go and serve some of the world’s most vulnerable people with desperately needed primary medical and surgical care, our students experience substantial professional growth in their medical knowledge, skills and confidence. In addition, these trips nurture the development of compassionate providers with a heart for the poor in their own communities and beyond.”

PA students with Roger on boat

In total, the group met with a total of 176 patients and assisted on 13 surgeries during the seven-day trip. The students were able to fill many roles while seeing patients and assisting with surgeries. They even traveled to a remote village by taking a boat and hiking in order to treat 90 of the villagers.

For more information about the PA program at Mount Union, visit http://www.mountunion.edu/physician-assistant-program.

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