In preparing my capstone presentation and reflecting on the last three years in physical therapy school at Regis, I began to see a theme linking all of my most rich experiences from which I learned the most: discomfort. From patient labs and practical exams to clinicals to presentations to service learning, we are constantly thrown into situations where we do not know exactly what to expect, are not sure of our abilities, and have to be willing to be flexible and a little bit vulnerable. These are the times we grow and learn the most. The global health immersion to Peru this spring was no different, and it even amplified those familiar feelings of unease. But I have found that those times of the unknown, unexpected, and unsure are the times when the most growth occurs. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the global health program at Regis, to learn from the people of Peru, to challenge myself to practice with cultural sensitivity, and to gain a better understanding of a culture different from my own.
Third year students Allie Smith, Elena Absalon, and I traveled with Dr. Heidi Eigsti to Peru where we spent three weeks working with therapists and patients in the city of Huancayo. We spent much of our time with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which is a Non-Governmental Organization that serves primarily women and children.
CMMB has two programs in Huancayo. The first is CHAMPS, which focuses on promoting health, hygiene, nutrition, prenatal care, and access to health care providers. The second, with which we worked, is Rehabilitación Basado en Comunidad (RBC), or Community Based Rehabilitation. The program focuses on serving children with disabilities and their families in the most impoverished neighborhoods in Huancayo, Chilca, and Azapampa. Two physical therapists, Carmen and Loreley, and one psychologist, Lucia, care for 40 children and their families with both home and clinic-based treatment. The goal of the program, in keeping with the World Health Organization’s initiative to improve accessibility for people with disabilities around the globe, is to provide community-based rehab that is relationship focused and incorporates functional activities into everyday routines to improve patients’ participation in their homes and communities.
The impact that RBC was having on the community in Huancayo was evident. The families with whom we worked were well educated on goals of therapy, extremely involved in home exercise programs, and motivated to do whatever they could to help their child improve. The therapists focused on all aspects of the child’s well-being and had developed strong relationships with them and their families. The Jesuit value of cura personalis was definitely at work, incorporating mind, body and spirit into care. The therapists put together events to connect the families, and they were working to develop of community of support. It was a valuable learning experience to see such a team-based, holistic approach being implemented in an underserved community. CMMB is definitely working to create a sustainable solution to removing the barriers to health and participation faced by the women and children of Chilca and Azapampa. That sustainability is imperative in making a lasting difference in the area, and I am excited for future Regis students to have the opportunity to continue to develop this new relationship with CMMB.
I should mention the whole immersion wasn’t all work. We went on an artisan tour in the mountains surrounding Huancayo where we learned about gourd painting, silver jewelry crafting, and textile production. We hiked to the glacier on Huaytapallana mountain at around 16,000 feet and completed a three-day trek to Machu Picchu City. These experiences introduced us to more of the beautiful landscape and culture of the country, and we were welcomed everywhere we went by warm people of Peru.
Blogger: Abby Burger, Class of 2016