International Studies & Programs

Lectures before clinic were very helpful

Hearing about how Guatemalans live allowed me to better understand their conditions and provide treatment plans.

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Published: Thursday, 06 Apr 2023 Author: Maria Rollinger

Maria standing in clinic with MSU doctorDuring spring break 2023, myself and 10 other medical students traveled to Guatemala to care for the citizens living outside the city of Antigua. For four days, we worked in a variety of specialties like family medicine, pediatrics, pharmacy, neurology, OB, emergency medicine, and dermatology. I was able to take full patient histories, check vital signs, and work with the volunteering physicians to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

To become familiar with the patient population in the area, we had lectures before clinic, where we discussed the types of foods Guatemalans typically eat, their work life (walking long distances or carrying heavy objections on top of their heads), and the common conditions seen in the area (certain skin conditions, diabetes, parasites in children, chronic pain). I was surprised to learn that many of the patients experience frequent dizziness from dehydration and have smaller meals like only eating two tortillas a meal. We explain to patients the importance of having a balanced diet, like consuming beans with the tortillas, and recommended staying hydrated. Hearing about how Guatemalans live allowed me to better understand their conditions and provide treatment plans. I was impressed to see they many of them had great cardiac and pulmonary conditions. Most patients I saw had a low, but normal blood pressure, and Maria holding Spartan flag in mountainous area of Guatemalagenerally many of them had clear sounding lungs. This contrasts with the many diabetic and hypertensive patients I have seen in the United States.

Also, while on this program, I was able to assist in a clinical research project to assess the heights and weights of children in Guatemala. The Who Health Organization (WHO) has standardized growth charts from only 7 countries in the world, and Brazil is the only Latin American country represented. This means, the current growth charts used to compare children on their physical development may be biased to children living in only the 7 countries collected by the WHO. Hence, we collected data to create our own standardized data set to compare to other nearby countries where other MSUCOM outreach programs have collected data, and see if there is a difference in height and weight in children from different countries.

Overall, from this program, I enhanced my clinical exam skills and feel more confident working with patients now as a medical student. Aside from clinic work, I came away from this program feeling well-connected to the physicians I worked with, gained 10 new medical school friends who I still keep in contact with, and a new admiration for a culture I never knew about.

Name: Maria Rollinger
Status: Graduate
Major: Osteopathic Medicine
Hometown: Macomb, Michigan
Program: Global Health: Guatemala - Clinical Immersion