MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Good Bye and Thank You Panama!!!

July 13, 2012
Author: Quynh Nguyen

As our group of 15 students from USC, Prof. Dwyer, Prof. Baezconde-Garbanadi, and Logistician Rosa Barahona prepared to wrap up our adventure in Panama, there are mixed feelings in all of us.  Just as we start to get into the flow of things in Panama, we have to start packing our bags.  Panama is a beautiful country with a mix of modernity and primitiveness seen in it high rises and in the indigenous communities hidden in the rainforest.  The weather is always hot and humid with sudden flashes of thunders and rains. Yet, as much as I don’t like getting my clothes and shoes wet, I think I’ll miss this unpredictable weather when I get back home.  The Panamanian people are some of the warmest, kindest, talkative, humorous, and intelligence people that I have met in my many adventures. They have a lot of pride in their cultures, traditions, and their countries.  Everyone here is filled with passion and this passion is very contagious.
The Bridge of the Americas, Panama!!!!!

Yesterday, the elementary school where the Nutrition group spent their time threw us a going away ceremony.  Every single class at the school did a mini presentation.  Some sang, some recite poem, some dance, and some put on a skit for us.  I was very touch by their gestures. Even though the children did not know most of us well, they still came up to us, hugged us, and thanked us.  The efforts that the elementary school’s students and teachers made left a deep impression with me.  After the ceremony, the teachers led us to the only air conditioned room in the school and provided snacks and drinks for all of us.  At that moment, I have a lingering feeling of “not wanting to leave” this place.

Today, after every group presented our presentations, I heard someone said “we are done guys!” It suddenly occurred to me that tomorrow we are all leaving Panama. I was very proud of our groups for completing so many different and important tasks within such a short period of time.  In just two weeks, I have learned so much. My group spent our time at the Centre de Salude 24 di Deciembre.  It was amazing how much knowledge I gained just by talking to the nurses, pharmacist, and patients at this health center.

Logitician Rosa, Prof. Lourdes B, Prof. Lourdes A, Dr. Calvo, Prof. Kathleen
Finally, I just wanted to express my thanks to everyone who helped me along this short but very memorable trip.  The Professors, Kathleen and Lourdes, who went beyond their responsibilities to provide guidance, input, and sometime their own personal funding, to ensure that we all got the most out of our experience.  Dr. Calvo and Profesora Lourdes A, who I know none of these experiences, could have happened without their connections and assistance. Our logistician, Rosa, who I cannot even imagine how she is able to stay “sane” with all of us bothering her for translation and printing.  Senora Estella (or as most of us called her “Mama”), I could have never asked for a better translator and “partner.” She helped me so much with the patients’ interviews at the clinic. My group members, Rachel, Stephanie, and Maurice, I don’t even know how we did it, but it worked.  I’m so proud and glad of all the works and energies that we have put into our project.  You guys simply are the best.  My roomie, Deena, the “Queen of Trash”, I am so proud of your determination.  You know what you want and it came to fruition. You have started the recycling movement in Panama! Yay! Finally, to all of my others group mates: Jessica, Chelsea, Yasmin, Garine, Babar, Patrick, Chris, Chloe, Grace, and Theresa.  If someone asked me who I would go to Panama with the next time, without even a second, my answer would be the 14 of you.  Muchas gracias Panama y la gente que he conocido en Panama. Espero volver pronto!!!

The Last Group Picture!!!!!

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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