Twenty Northern Michigan University students just returned from San Ignacio, Belize, where they gained hands-on clinical experiences under the guidance of NMU professors Kristi Robinia, Yuba Gautam and Mandi Roos. They were enrolled in an NMU course titled “Interdisciplinary Study in Global Health Care-Latin America.” The students worked with a Belizean physician to deliver care to more than 200 residents in the villages of Bullet Tree Falls and Benque Viejo. They represented the following majors: nursing; speech, language and hearing sciences; athletic training; pre-med; and public health.
During clinics, students gathered research data on the problem of diabetes in rural Belize. They conducted health screenings—body mass index, blood sugar, hemoglobin and blood pressure—and dispensed medications as ordered by the physician.
“As an interdisciplinary group, they learned about each other’s expertise levels and drew upon them to address problems that arose,” said Robinia. “For example, the athletic training students assessed villagers with muscular-skeletal issues and provided gentle therapeutic exercise, along with creams and wraps as necessary. Students also conducted home visits for confined elderly patients and were able to work together to address issues such as complex diabetic ulcer wounds.”
As a trip highlight, students spent half of one day in a local elementary school. They designed and delivered lessons on dental care and administered a dental varnish to more than 300 children as a preventive measure against tooth decay and cavities. They also engaged in a cultural exchange. NMU students shared “fake” snow and pictures comparing Marquette’s environment with the Belizean landscape.
The second half of the day involved a cultural exchange with elderly residents in a long-term care facility. The trip concluded with a community education event in the local marketplace. Students designed interactive lessons on healthy eating habits to prevent diabetes and distributed healthy snacks and recipes.
An NMU academic service learning grant provided support for developing teaching materials and the College of Health Science and Professional Studies provided supplies. Eliu Yacab, director of Heart-to-Heart Belize, facilitated the NMU delegation’s activities.