Rooftops in Peru

UB Physician Assistant Students Reap the Benefits of Cultural Immersion in Peru

From January 19-26, 10 UB Physician Assistant students traveled to Cusco, Peru for an eye-opening learning experience. Under the oversight of Adjunct Professor Dr. Monica Lockwood, they undertook this trip as part of an optional educational lab that would lay foundations for capstone course projects, a part of their final semester before clinicals that is now underway.

In Peru they visited several orphanages, women’s shelters and a more remote town, where they conducted sessions focused on health and wellness. They covered topics ranging from hygiene to exercise.

They also brought a variety of donated items with them, which they had gathered from generous sources from within the University and around the Bridgeport community. This included mannequins for learning CPR, donated by St. Vincent’s Medical Center, reading glasses and sunglasses from Americares, a local not-for-profit, and athletic clothing for the children, from a local businessman. The students also started a GoFundMe page through which they raised money that went exclusively toward purchasing medical supplies, such as blood pressure cups, stethoscopes and more.

As the students prepare to practice in their field, this experience working with people from another culture, and in another country, was invaluably beneficial. Skylar Miers emphasized the meaningful experience of confronting “the challenges that arise with a language barrier.” Kelly Hafers embraced the opportunity “to learn how to adapt to new situations.”

All the students stayed with local host families, providing further immersion into Peruvian culture.

Scott Runner, UB’s director of study abroad who was intimately involved in preparations, spoke about the benefits of international experience: “Studying abroad is an amazing way for students to grow personally and professionally. Through it they learn, engage and adapt in diverse situations, equipping them with intercultural skills necessary to make them leaders in today’s job market.”

Lockwood emphasized the relevance of this trip to medical practice: “By immersing yourself in other cultures you learn how to treat a wider range of people properly.”

The trip was beneficial for both the students and those they visited. Recalling their visit to a girl’s orphanage, Benjamin Contreras said, “They welcomed us with open arms, and that was the most rewarding part of the trip for me. I would definitively go again.”

For each of the eight days in Peru, Naomi Lowe maintained a brief journal of highlights. It is a pleasure to share it here below.