Courtney Schippers, a senior from Overland Park, Kan., demonstrates the workings of a stethoscope for a youngster during a study-abroad service project in Belize.

SEEING HEALTHCARE FIRST-HAND in the remote regions of a developing nation can have a lasting impact on a young pre-med student. Just ask the PSU students who participated in a study-abroad service project in Belize in 2010, who say they won’t soon forget their experience.

The PSU projects target remote villages in which residents may not see a healthcare worker during the year. A previous trip went to parts of Peru, but in 2010, the students headed to Belize.

There, the residents waited patiently in seemingly endless lines with ailments ranging from the simple and mundane to serious, long-term maladies such as tuberculosis and painful orthopedic problems.

“(It was) unlike anything I have seen before,” premed student Zach Krumsick said of the town. “The houses typically had one room, and everyone slept on a hammock that hangs from the center.”

Neil Bryan, a former PSU pre-med student who is now in medical school at the University of Kansas, participated in a trip to Peru. Bryan said one of the things that students learn on the trips is how sometimes simple and often inexpensive treatment can have a big effect.

“Although such trips are certainly not ideal for managing chronic conditions, many problems can be dealt with effectively,” Bryan said. “Giving young women pre-natal vitamins is an example. (This is) a short-term, low-cost involvement that can prevent lifelong birth defects.”

Nicole Wilt, a PSU senior who also took part in the Peru trip, said the students spent much of their time in Belize on medical education.

“For the kids, we focused on how to brush teeth, wash hands, use latrines, etc.,” Wilt said. “For the adults, we focused more on good nutrition and exercise,
how to prevent and/or deal with diabetes, and hypertension and hyperlipidemia.”

Although dealing with diseases and foreign travel were important parts of the trip, the students said, they were affected in deeper ways and they left Belize with vivid memories of specific patients in their heads.

“Sometimes the lines of patients never seemed to die down, and it was amazing to me how the people just wanted to be touched by the doctor,” said Krumsick.