In December, members of the School of Pharmacy’s chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association took a trip to Belize to conduct health fairs and conduct health education programs, providing outreach to a population that lacks these type of services.
The students traveled to Hattieville Village, a small town 16 miles from any major city. It was established in 1961 as a refugee camp when many were left homeless from Hurricane Hattie.
Student leaders of the project were Ruth Awosika and Toni Codling, both PharmD candidates (’12). Other pharmacy students on the trip included Raymond Shum and Sylvia Nguyen, both PharmD candidates (’14), and Jaclyn Kaladjian and Vineeta Jagitiani, both PharmD candidates (’13). The pharmacy students were joined by other USC students from the Master’s of Public Health program, pre-health students from the African Americans in Health organization and a physician assistant student from the Keck School of Medicine.
Gustavus A. Aranda, Jr., an alumnus of the School of Pharmacy, was the preceptor for the service learning trip. The trip had a special meaning to Aranda as a native of Belize himself.
“Our mission is to provide service to areas that are most in need,” explains Aranda. “On this trip, the students did a multitude of things, including providing health education at local orphanages and conducting screenings at a local health fair.”
During their visit, the interdisciplinary group visited four orphanages and safe homes, two churches, an elementary school and a juvenile detention center. At these sites, they presented interactive educational materials on hygiene, poison prevention and HIV/AIDS awareness. They also provided toys, school supplies, clothes and shoes to the local children while on these visits.
The group also collaborated with Belizean health professionals to organize a health fair, where the students provided screenings for hypertension and diabetes, and conducted brown bag checks to educate patients about their medications.
“Having a multi-disciplinary team was unique, and it contributed to the overall success of the trip,” noted student leader Ruth Awosika.
This service trip represents a continuation of SNPhA’s dedication to international outreach; they have previously organized two Christmas mission trips to Montego Bay, Jamaica and go on medical mission trips to Tijuana, Mexico every three months.
“Spending such a long period of time in a foreign country helps you discover strengths and abilities that you never knew you had, and you’ll be able to take these skills with you throughout life,” said participating pharmacy student Raymond Shum.
Toni Codling, who took part in both Christmas mission trips to Jamaica and acted as student leader for this trip, found her experience in Belize to be unique.
“The knowledge and experiences gained from Project Belize was eye opening and inspiring to say the least,” said Codling. “The beauty and vibrant nature of the people and richness of their culture almost blinded you to the many challenges they are facing in the field of healthcare. This made the fact that we were able to undertake our first health fair abroad even more rewarding, as we were able to supply health screenings and medical information to the community.”
The trip was made possible by Walter Cathey, special assistant to the dean for diversity, who is the SNAPhA advisor; Ed Lieskovan, a adjunct professor and an alumnus of the PharmD program; Virginia Luevano, a School of Pharmacy staff member; the USC Institute of Global Health; Wal-Mart; and the Graduate Professional Student Senate.