Young Women Ready to Change the World
In a few hours I will meet up with 10 stunningly bright, motivated young women, who are all ready to embark on an adventure to Guatemala. This is my 12th time leading a group of volunteer medical providers and young adult pre-professional healthcare students on a journey to Guatemala. The first 8 of those trips were with Xavier University in Cincinnati, the last have been with Regis University in Denver, my alma mater. This is the first student team I have taken that is made up of all young women. Every year we typically have many more female than male applicants. It has led me to the conclusion that there just are not as many men going into medicine these days; or at least the idea of service doesn’t draw as many male applicants. Whatever the reason, I am really excited to spend the coming week in Guatemala with these amazing young women. Three are graduating from Regis this morning with their undergraduate degrees. We have spent every Sunday evening together this academic year, learning about Guatemala, medical Spanish, how to triage and take medical histories, how to take vital signs, etc. They are ready. We will run a primary care clinic this week at a very special place. Regis began a partnership with Ciudad de la Esperanza, in Coban, Guatemala in the fall of 2019. Ciudad is a community center and school that was founded in 2003 by a Guatemalan priest, Padre Sergio Godoy. It serves about 2000 very marginalized, indigenous Guatemalans who live on the local landfill. The center and school is built right next to the dump. Kids go to school there, and they have access to legal and psychological support. Families get job training there. Since 2020 they now have access to primary healthcare. We will travel with over 1000 pounds of medications and supplies to keep the clinic running this year and the pharmacy stocked.
This team of young Regis students were so adept with their fundraising and we had such a successful donation drive earlier this month with Regis Gives Day that we can finally in earnest start our capacity building efforts. We will begin an endowment this summer that we will keep adding to over the next several years. The endowment will fund salaries for the local Guatemalan healthcare workers who staff the clinic year round. In the years I have been doing this work I have found that grants are typically available for things like construction and tangible things like lab equipment, but finding grants that can be used to pay people a living wage are hard to come by. So the endowment will be what we can use to pay local Guatemalans to staff this clinic going forward. Our capacity building arm of this project is called AMIGA and it stands for Ann Manganaro Institute for Guatemalan Accompaniment. Ann was a sister of Loretto and a pediatrician who loved Central America, serving as a pediatrician to indigenous Salvadorans for many years during their civil war before her untimely death from breast cancer. She has always been someone I admired and I am so glad we can keep her memory alive with this endowment.
I want to extend a warm thank you to all of you who have supported our program in so many ways. As we travel the next few days the blog will be pretty silent. The students will all be writing about their experiences this week and those writings will be posted on the blog. It takes a few days to get the blog up and running after we travel, so check back in as you are able. The posts will be under the archives tab. You can read past trip’s blogs there as well.
Off we go with 10 young women ready to change the world!
Lauri Pramuk, MD