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Checking the blood pressure of a child in Nicaragua

Students put medical and Spanish skills to use in Nicaraguan villages

written by Trevor Jordan, intern, university news and communications

OXFORD – Twenty-four Miami University students became part of several medical brigades to help Nicaraguan families during a service study abroad program that mixed both medical and Spanish skills.  

Students traveled over 3000 miles to Granada, Nicaragua, during winter term 2014 as part of either Miami’s Integrating Spanish and Health (ISH) or Medical Immersion Spanish (MIS) program. The winter term program was fashioned after a spring service-learning trip developed by Nohelia Rojas-Miesse and Julie Szucs, both from the department of Spanish and Portuguese.  

The winter programs included pre-med science majors with a handful of Spanish minors who put their medical and Spanish skills to use.

The program consisted of two groups, one for credit (MIS) and one noncredit (ISH). Each group spent one week in Granada.

Students who took the MIS program studied in Oxford two weeks prior (Jan. 6 – 17) to traveling abroad (Jan. 18 – 25). Here, Szucs taught a medical Spanish course to help students prepare for the trip. Topics covered included the health care system, medical conditions, prenatal care and pediatric care.

Those who took the ISH program arrived on Jan. 11 and went straight to work.

Between the two programs, students helped an estimated 2,400 patients. They helped doctors by sorting medicine, checking in patients, interviewing patients to determine a medical history and taking blood pressure, said senior bioengineering pre-med student Jason Ina.

Students were encouraged to bring various donations, ranging from medicine to toothbrushes. At each brigade, these items were passed out to families in need.

Ina, one of the students to arrive the first week, recognized the gravity of the work.

"It's an eye-opening experience"

“It’s an eye-opening experience. You see all of these pictures, and hear of these stories… but to actually be there and see the kind of lifestyle and poverty, and how they could truly use help,” he said. “It’s not that hard to actually help people; you just have to do it.”

Students also helped by interacting with the children.

“On one of the days, we only had one doctor with us. So, as some of the students helped inside, a few others and myself went outside to play with some of the children,” said senior zoology pre-med student Amy Hutchison. “It was so rewarding that just the simple act of playing with them made their day. It will be something I remember forever.”

Within the first day, students were already expanding their comfort zones in terms of practice and language, said Rojas-Miesse. By adjusting to a basic conversational level of speaking, students could then work one-on-one with the doctors and patients to develop their medical experience.

“Being in an environment where you have no other option but to speak the language of the country in order to communicate can be challenging, but it is truly the best way to learn the language,” said Hutchison.

A life-long lesson

Both Rojas-Miesse and Szucs continue to be impressed with all the good their students do, and are optimistic about the program in the coming years. With continued efforts, they hope to cause a “ripple-effect” in both the students and patients; not just helping them now, but helping them for the rest of their lives, said Szucs.

“It’s important for us as teachers to see them applying what they learned to help so many people,” said Szucs. “…and for [the students] to see the impact we are making in the communities.”

Ina believes a student’s commitment to helping others and the evolution of the program go beyond the one-week visit.

“The instructors focus on taking pre-med students on these trips to experience the conditions first hand, as I did,” said Ina. “The long-term goal of the program is that once we become doctors, we’ll take what we learned to help the people who need it most.”  

A second goal of the instructors is to gradually increase the amount of donations they are able to provide for patients each year. To help, Ina has contacted members of Miami’s Chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon, the International Medical Fraternity. With the help of the fraternity, Ina would create a fundraiser to contribute to the cause.

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Amy Hutchison and Cara Demyan pose with a child

Amy Hutchison and Cara Demyan pose with a child

Justin Stafford, Bob Laing, Cara Demyan and Rachael Herriman push the children on swings

Justin Stafford, Bob Laing, Cara Demyan and Rachael Herriman push the children on swings

Jason Ina interacts with the children

Jason Ina interacts with the children

Amy Hutchison poses with a child

Amy Hutchison poses with a child

Erin Bell gives diapers, a baby outfit and other supplies to a maternity patient

Erin Bell gives diapers, a baby outfit and other supplies to a maternity patient

Briana Deer explain medications to patient

Briana Deer explain medications to patient

(first row l-r): Elaine Koberlein, Kelly Rodman, Briana Deer, Maddie Hudak, Sarah Welton (second row, l-r):  Mark Loh, Mitch Budden, Marc Wadsworth, Erin Bell, Ethan Elshoff, Kevin Downard, Nick Daum, Matt Hagan

(first row l-r): Elaine Koberlein, Kelly Rodman, Briana Deer, Maddie Hudak, Sarah Welton (second row, l-r): Mark Loh, Mitch Budden, Marc Wadsworth, Erin Bell, Ethan Elshoff, Kevin Downard, Nick Daum, Matt Hagan

Mark Loh teaches children how to brush their teeth

Mark Loh teaches children how to brush their teeth

Erin Bell, Maddie Hudak, Elaine Koberlein, Sarah Welton and Briana Deer interview patients

Erin Bell, Maddie Hudak, Elaine Koberlein, Sarah Welton and Briana Deer interview patients

Amy Hutchinson, Matt Meeks and Christina Metcalf assist the doctor with a patient

Amy Hutchinson, Matt Meeks and Christina Metcalf assist the doctor with a patient

Matt Hagan takes a patient's blood pressure

Matt Hagan takes a patient's blood pressure

(first row l-r): Amy Hutchinson, Rachel Herriman, Cara Demyan, Christina Metcalf, April Jia, Kristin Herron and Rachel Tagliamonte (second row, l-r): Bob Laing, Matthew Meeks, Dr. Moises Robles, Kevin Downard, Justin Stafford and Jason Ina

(first row l-r): Amy Hutchinson, Rachel Herriman, Cara Demyan, Christina Metcalf, April Jia, Kristin Herron and Rachel Tagliamonte (second row, l-r): Bob Laing, Matthew Meeks, Dr. Moises Robles, Kevin Downard, Justin Stafford and Jason Ina

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Luxembourg
West Chester
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Hamilton
Oxford
  • Luxembourg
    Luxembourg

    John E. Dolibois European Center, Luxembourg

    One of Miami's oldest continuous study abroad programs, the Miami University John E. Dolibois Center (MUDEC) in Luxembourg offers students the opportunity to enroll in Miami classes taught by European-based and Ohio-based Miami faculty. Students enjoy a unique combination of first-class academics, engagement in the local community, and various faculty-guided and independent travel opportunities.

    Contact and emergency information for the Luxembourg Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    Château de Differdange
    1, Impasse du Château
    L-4524 Differdange
    Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
    luxembourg@MiamiOH.edu
    MiamiOH.edu/luxembourg

    217-222 MacMillan Hall
    531 E. Spring Street
    Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA

    Directions

    Main Operator: 011-352-582222-1
    Oxford-based Coordinator: 513-529-5050
    Emergency info: MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • West Chester
    West Chester

    Voice of America Learning Center

    Located midway between Cincinnati and Dayton along I-75, the Voice of America Learning Center (VOALC) offers undergraduate and graduate courses and programs drawn from Miami's Regional and Oxford campuses. Home to Miami's MBA program, the Learning Center provides ready access to graduate programs for area educators and courses leading to the BIS degree for undergraduates.

    Contact and emergency information for the Voice of America Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    7847 VOA Park Dr.
    (Corner of VOA Park Dr. and Cox Rd.)
    West Chester, OH 45069
     
    voalc@MiamiOH.edu
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    Main Operator: 513-895-8862
    (From Middletown) 513-217-8862
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  • Middletown
    Middletown

    Middletown Regional Campus

    Nestled on 141 acres near I-75, Miami University Middletown offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Nearby Greentree Health Science Academy immerses Miami's nursing and health information technology students in the health care experience while taking classes.

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     4200 N. University Blvd.
    Middletown, OH 45042
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    Campus Status Line: 513-727-3477
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  • Hamilton
    Hamilton

    Hamilton Regional Campus

    A compact, friendly, commuter campus, Miami Hamilton offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Small class sizes, on-site child care, and flexible scheduling make Miami Hamilton attractive to students at all stages of life and career.

    Contact and emergency information for the Hamilton Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    1601 University Blvd.
    Hamilton, OH 45011
    regionalwebmaster@MiamiOH.edu
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    Main Operator: 513-785-3000
    Office of Admission: 513-785-3111
    Campus Status Line: 513-785-3077
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  • Oxford
    Oxford

    Miami University, Oxford Ohio

    Nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding undergraduate institutions, Miami University is a public university located in Oxford, Ohio. With a student body of 16,000, Miami effectively combines a wide range of strong academic programs with faculty who love to teach and the personal attention ordinarily found only at much smaller institutions.

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    Oxford, OH 45056

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    Main Operator: 513-529-1809
    Office of Admission: 513-529-2531
    Vine Hotline: 513-529-6400
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