Students Impact Patients’ Lives in GuatemalaFebruary 24, 2023
Sixteen Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students and faculty members exchanged their Christmas holidays for a mission trip
to Guatemala where they impacted the lives of almost 1,000 patients.
First, second and third year DO students, along with a DO student from the PCOM South Georgia campus, staffed several clinics located near Antigua, some in remote mountainous areas.
Donald Penney, MD, the chair of clinical education and a clinical professor of emergency medicine at
PCOM Georgia, served as the chief medical officer for the trip arranged through International
Medical Relief, a nonprofit mission organization headquartered in Colorado.
According to first year DO student Alice Manning (DO ’26), the trip to Guatemala was
“an amazing and eye-opening experience.” She said, “Spending five days in clinics
opened my eyes to the poor healthcare system in Guatemala and how much of a difference
we can make by volunteering, donating medications, and providing health care through
She explained that each clinic had several stations including triage, community education,
health care and dentistry. In the community education area, Manning enjoyed informing
patients about proper handwashing techniques and hygiene, along with providing information
about diabetes and dentistry.
“I did not realize the impact and importance of the knowledge I was sharing until
I was approached by several patients asking me to show them how to use dental floss,”
“In the United States, we take for granted having clean water, being taught at a young
age to wash your hands, and how to brush and floss our teeth. As a medical student
sometimes you are so focused on treating the ailment that you can forget the importance
of prevention and giving your patients the knowledge.”
Manning shared that she used many skills learned in medical school including taking
patients’ histories and vitals and using osteopathic manipulative medicine. She used OMM for neurologic motor exams, upper extremity range of motion tests,
special tests for carpal tunnel syndrome, and diagnosing rotator cuff strains.
She noted that a highlight of the trip was using a pocket ultrasound so a pregnant
woman could see her baby for the first time.
Shino Sleeper (DO ’24) said, “It was a very rewarding opportunity where we got to
put what we learned during didactics into action without any anxiety or a scorecard.”
“We used some of our OMM training, which was highly useful in this kind of environment
since you could offer immediate care and teach movements so the patients could improve
their lives over time, rather than just the one week or month of medication we could
provide,” she said.
During the trip, the students’ routine included debriefing sessions each day after
clinics to discuss issues related to the day’s work. Some of the students used their
free day to hike Pacaya, an active volcano. Manning was fascinated to see a Guatemalan
cooking a pizza on top of lava at the volcano’s peak.
Dr. Penney, who noted that the Guatemala trip was dedicated to the memory of PCOM
Georgia Doctor of Osteopathic student Danny Martinez, is planning another mission trip to Tanzania this summer through International Medical Relief. The organization is active in multiple countries and provides hotel lodging, transportation
to and from the clinics, as well as some meals. In addition, the organization provides
medications, eyeglasses and dentistry, along with follow-up care for patients needing
attention after the clinics.
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About PCOM Georgia
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated
to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied
history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and
physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science,
and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM
Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service
to the wider community. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center,
an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment.
For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.
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