MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Exploring Panama!

July 13, 2012
Author: Deena Pourshaban

Hi Everyone!  I have only one word to describe my experience here, amazing! I am in the vector control/environmental group and everyday is a new adventure. Our group has had the privilege to work with three, extremely knowledgeable and fun health inspectors.  Today for example, the health inspectors were following up on a report of Leishmaniasis, which is a disease spread by the bite of a sandfly.   We travelled to Hacienda Rio Tocumen and were introduced to a woman and man who were both exposed to Leishmaniasis .

In order to reach the farm, we had to hike up and down steep hills in the mountains of Panama to reach the destination. However none of that mattered, the scenery and environment was beautiful that made the humid, hike bearable.

Once we reached the farm, we immediately observed the farm animals, which are reservoirs for the sandfly. Both patients described the nature of their infection and the different treatment methods they each pursued.  The man was treated at a health center, that followed normal protocol for the treatment of Leishmaniasis, and his wound healed.  The woman, on the other hand did not believe it was necessary to go the health center, and only received treatment from ?Gringos,? (who were medical doctors in the area), she believed their treatment method was more effective.  This provided interesting insight into the Panamanian culture and traditions.

 This experience provided me with the opportunity to participate in real adventures and allowed me to apply my academic knowledge in the field.  Each day, our group is provided with a wealth of knowledge and experience and I can?t wait to see what the next day brings! Thanks to the MPH program and the faculty at the IPR Faculty at IPR and in Preventive Medicine, L. Baezconde-Garbanati and K.Dwyer, and logistician Rosa Barahona.

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.

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