Students Head to Mexico to Provide Free Health Screenings

Posted at: 03/21/2013 2:08 PM
Updated at: 03/21/2013 10:55 PM
By: Brittany Falkers

It's spring break at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD).  While some students flock to sunny beaches for the week, a group of students from the UMD's School of Pharmacy are getting ready for a different kind of trip.  They are headed to Puebla, Mexico, just south of Mexico City, for some hands-on work.

Since 2006, the Puebla Service Project has been a chance for pharmacy students at UMD to get real world experience, while helping those who would not otherwise get it.

Sean Navin is this year's trip coordinator and says the trip is great for getting real health care experience. 

"What we do is go down there, set up clinics and provide free health services to the people," Navin said, "these people wouldn't have access to these types of services otherwise, because they live in very remote areas of Mexico." 

The group of about 30 students will see roughly 100 patients a day, around 400 or more total.  Each of them will receive their own health screening. 

Students will check for diabetes and heart issues mainly, because they are most prevalent among the patients they see, according to Navin.

"We provide services that check their blood glucose levels, we check their blood pressure, and we also check their cholesterol levels," Navin said. 

However, these students say the trip is a lot more than job training. Nathan Lewis, a second year pharmacy student, participated in the Puebla Service Project last year and says it's a cultural experience he and the patients won't soon forget.

"Right when we got there, I was amazed at how appreciative they were for our services," Lewis said, "I remember they dropped us off at a clinic site one time and it was kind of just a shack on the side of the road. So, it's kind of amazing to see that, that is there health care and that's what they have to use."

Not only is the trip a great chance for pharmacy students to get hands-on health care training, but it also works as a cultural exchange that keeps students coming back each year, according to Navin.

"A lot of our patients they ask, when we're leaving, when we're coming back. And that they really appreciate what we're doing for them,
 Navin said, "So, I feel like I'm helping them out. It makes me feel really good that we can go back there."

In order to get there, they need your help first because costs really add up.

"It's about $1,000 per person and we have about 30 kids going," pharmacy student, Julie Corradi, said.

Not only are travel costs a factor, but supplies for the student's services do not come cheap.  A instrumental machine that helps the students determine cholesterol levels costs $1,600 alone and they need more than just one.  It cost about $200 just to test 20 patients with high glucose levels for diabetes.

Again, the students usually see about 400 people on the trip, so supplies add up quickly.  Students must pay out of pocket for these supplies if funds are not raise.  That's not even including transportation and food costs. When all is said and done, the total trip costs an average of $40,000. 

You can help support these students Saturday, March 23 at the Miller Hill Mall Barnes and Nobel.  From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students will be in the children's section handing out vouchers that you can use in-store or online.  A portion of that sale goes to their trip. Online vouchers can be used until March 28th with the checkout code #11043841.

At Saturday's fundraiser you can also get a free blood pressure check, learn more about prescription drugs, and kids can even play some fun games.

You can also donate online to the Puebla Service Trip by CLICKING HERE.

To get involved and fore more information contact Sean Navin at sfnavin@umn.edu