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Lamay Clinic Project improving healthcare for remote Peruvian town

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Perú is an exotic destination most medical students don’t have time to think about.

But five medical students from Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine have dedicated months to building a safe, sustainable clinic in the Sacred Valley of Perú.

Jackie Chu, Alida Gertz, Anna Brady, Satoko Kanahara and Rachel Roth

Interested in international humanitarian work, Alida Gertz, Anna Brady, Jackie Chu, Satoko Kanahara, and Rachel Roth discovered a small Colorado based NGO devoted to improving health, education and quality of life, Peruvian Hearts, which operates the Lamay Clinic.

Its founder, Ana Dodson, is a Peruvian orphan adopted by a family in the United States. At age 11, she returned to her birth town and decided she was obligated to help. Dodson founded Peruvian Hearts in 2003 and has raised over $150,000 to support orphans and children living in poverty in Perú over the past 5 years.

Kathy Franco, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs, said the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine is devoted to not only improving healthcare in Cleveland but globally; “They wanted to support a cause that no one else was helping and the Lamay Clinic need a shot in the arm.”

With the help of the dean, faculty, hospital staff, and private donors, the students established the Lamay Clinic Project, which sent a team of 15 physicians and 14 medical students to Perú in June 2009, to provide acute care to 857 patients, 62 percent of whom were women.

“Our primary goal in 2009 was needs assessment,” said Chu, 4th year medical student. The team discovered domestic violence was a prevalent issue, and lack of women and children shelters forced women stay in abusive relationships. Funds are being raised to establish a women’s shelter and also create a mobile clinic to assist patients in extremely remote mountain villages.

Gertz said a mobile clinic also provides a well-equipped and private place for sensitive exams. “In one situation we had to provide a pelvic exam in a classroom which is less than ideal,” she said.

Dr. Sandy Greenhouse from Lawrence Memorial Hospital in New London, CT heard about the project through a colleague and decided to volunteer. He said the staff needed more medications, “We had to make do with what we had.” Including using traditional medication and herbs like eucalyptus to treat his sinus.

Indigenous doll from Perú

Gertz said traditional healers are a huge part of health care and the Clinic plans to incorporate their methods of healing as well. “We are learning as much from them as they are from us, and to negate their importance to the culture would be detrimental,” she said.

Greenhouse said major issues there are associated with parasites and lack of pure filtered drinking water and little things most doctors in the United States don’t have to worry about. “There is so much we take for granted,” said Greenhouse.   

Chu said all members of the team are required to have a functional knowledge of Spanish or have to take a three-month course in medical Spanish. In remote areas, the native language Quechua is spoken and translators bridge the gap between Spanish. The team also undergoes significant cultural awareness training and while in Perú evening study seminars allow students and physicians to share their experiences.

Brady said the goal is to expand to several trips a year, and make the Lamay Clinic an elective rotation destination for medical students. “There are opportunities for all levels of medical students and professionals there and we are in desperate need of ideas and tools to ensure sustainable healthcare and education,” said Brady.

“There is something very Peruvian about the experience, nothing works on time, things don’t go the way they are supposed to but, yet, at the end of the day, everything is just perfect,” said Chu. For her, and everyone else who participated, the children are the best part of the mission.

“What I miss most is the overabundance of warmth and smiles,” she said.

Another trip is planned for May 31, 2010 through June 25, 2010 and to raise awareness and funds the Lamay Clinic Project hosted a dinner at the Lerner Research Institute on Nov. 21, 2009. More than 150 guests attended, enjoyed food, and bought Peruvian artisan crafts ranging from key chains, to purses, indigenous dolls, and masks.

Fernando and Michelle Cano Olave
Local Peruvian artist, Fernando Cano-Olave, donated a painting, Aup Collyuriti, which means Shining Star in Quechua. The oil painting is a homage to the mountains, which are considered deities in Peruvian culture. Cano-Olave used to work at an orphanage in Cusco as an art and theatre director.

He met his wife, Michelle, there, while she was traveling as a volunteer. The two married and live in Aurora, Ohio.  Cano-Olave said he wanted to contribute to the Lamay Clinic Project because the orphanages are still close to his heart.

Gertz estimated $5,400 was raised during the event and all of it will help provide medications and equipment for the Clinic.

Franco said all students and physicians pay for their personal expenses to fly to and stay in Perú.

On the Internet: For more information on Peruvian Hearts visit: http://www.Peruvianhearts.org/

To donate to the Lamay Clinic Project or volunteer visit: http://lamayclinic.org






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