MPH Panama Practicum 2012: I couldn’t think of a creative title

July 8, 2012
Author: Chloe Smith

My days have started at 5:30am everyday. Some days with a break, some with not. It was been an incredibly challenging experience, but in a great, rewarding way. The kids are so inspiring to me and they are so cute! I have been working one on one with the nutrition, English, and physical education teacher on changing the school’s curriculum and leading workshops and teaching the kids as best as I can in spanish.

Yesterday, we had a focus group with obese children at the school which was really informative about their habits at home and what they eat. The area is very rural and extremely poor. I have never seen such disparities in a community before. And its sad because certain resources are just not available.

Today we taught 2nd and 3rd graders about the importance of healthy lunches. Next week I will be teaching 5th and 6th graders about nutrition in general. Again, this is all in Spanish. All the adults have been really impressed by my speaking skills (which I think are pretty crappy, but they tell me differently). Since today was my b-day I had over 100 kids sing me happy birthday. It was the most amazing, touching experience. The school also had a ceremony in which they crown the school’s new queen. It was a 1st grade based ceremony. The kids got all dressed up in formal wear- very similar to prom king & queen, except for little kids. They sang and danced and paraded around the school. So great to be apart of.

It’s hard for me to put into words what this experience is like- but all I have to say is this: GO travel!

More about the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of 15 University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. The students have been divided into three groups to work on maternal and child health, vaccination, environmental infectious diseases, nutrition and physical activity.

One group will be surveying patients about the healthcare system at a local clinic and proposing interventions to improve vaccination, infant development and women’s health. Another group will be in the field responding to outbreaks of environmentally spread infectious diseases and working to control common vectors such as mosquitoes. The last group will be calculating body mass index measurements for elementary school students and developing methods to improve nutrition and exercise within the school.

During their trip, the students will also be attending lectures on Panama’s healthcare system and statistics as well as visiting a remote indigenous tribe. Before leaving Panama, each student will be providing a deliverable that is intended to improve health in Panama.

These blog posts have been re-posted here with permission and can also be viewed at