HEALTH MATTERS: Summer 2013 Newsletter
19 CIEE students called Santiago home for seven weeks this summer. Arriving on June 1st students were met at the airport by CIEE staff and taken directly to a host family reception, where they met their new families, who were all eager to ease students into life in the DR and make them feel like a true part of the family.
After settling in with their host families in Santiago, students spent their first full day in the country in La Vega, doing an intensive orientation session at Casa Club. During this time, CIEE staff covered the most important information that students would need to know during the following weeks. After their orientation in Casa Club, students spent the next several days participating in various orientation week activities.
They became accustomed to Dominican academic life, met the estudiantes de apoyo (support students), a group of Dominican and Haitian students who are present to guide CIEE students through life at PUCMM, navigated through the city on a scavenger hunt, learned to dance to the Dominican Republic’s popular merengue and bachata rhythms, met their friends’ host families during a progressive dinner, and participated in workshops designed to address contemporary social issues in the country, such as race, identity, and gender from a Dominican perspective. After their first week of activities, students were well-prepared to take on many of the challenges that awaited them throughout the program, as well as enjoy leisure time activities such as going on CIEE’s excursions, independent travel, and experiencing Santiago’s nightlife.
As a host institution for the Summer Community Public Health program, the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), provides the setting where students meet for their classroom sessions, have access to student facilities such as computer labs, libraries, and cafeterias, and experience university life from a Dominican perspective. PUCMM also sees many of its own students graduate with medical degrees, thus providing CIEE students interested in the fields of medicine and public health valuable perspectives on medical education and practice in the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic. Academically, students enrolled in 9 semester hours of courses, including Spanish Language (which also incorporated medical terminology and cinema components), Medical Sociology, and a Community Medicine practicum. Class time was complemented with special guest lecturers, and visits to many different types of medical facilities, including hospitals and clinics; the nation’s most modern museum and cultural center; a local botánica at los hospedajes, a lively market showcasing herbs and alternative medicines and products for wellbeing; and Santiago’s main water treatment facility were also part of the extended classroom experience.
This summer, 19 motivated women from various universities spanning the entire USA, and fields of study participated in the program. The summer program has the fame and good fortune of always attracting very friendly, hard-working, and intellectually curious students, and this summer was no exception. If there’s one thing that life in the DR always teaches CIEE students, it’s the necessity of flexibility—by placing their experiences within the context of their goal to better understand life in a developing nation and the everyday challenges that Dominicans must face, students really seemed to come to realize that it is usually the most challenging experiences from which they gain the
One of the benchmarks of the CIEE Community Public Health program is our longstanding relationship with top medical personnel in the mostly-rural Hermanas Mirabal province (named after the heroic sisters made martyrs by Dictator Trujillo’s henchmen in 1960). For one week during the middle of the program, students formed small groups of 2-4 and teamed up with staff at small rural clinics to participate in a clinic stay. During this time, they experienced differences between the public health system in the urban setting of Santiago and the rural setting of their clinic in Hermanas Mirabal province, and also assisted in general treatment of patients (taking blood pressure, recording medical histories, weighing babies, etc). In addition to their time spent in the clinic, students also spent lots of time getting to know the locals of the area through house visits, playing sports with the local children, or sitting in on a game of late-evening dominoes at the corner store or neighbor’s house. Students took advantage of their time at the clinics to present on various health-related topics that they had developed during their first several weeks in the program, such as acute respiratory infections, diabetes, etc. At the end of such an endurance-challenging week, there was a celebratory going-away party followed by a visit to the Mirabal Sisters Museum, giving students the chance to see the house where the sisters and their husbands
worked so hard to end Trujillo’s tyranny.
As part of the Community Health Practicum course, socially-based experiential learning was a key component to this summer’s program. Each student participated in the program’s campaign to promote and assist in the healthy lifestyles of people living in Santiago’s marginalized Zona Sur, during which time they teamed up with local health promoters and spent time interacting with residents of the area, organizing and presenting informational forums on the treatment and prevention of prevalent illnesses and helping to collect medical histories to enable more accurate and effective medical attention in the future. Students really enjoyed the opportunity to travel throughout their assigned neighborhood, chatting with the people they met and learning their methods of staying healthy while also sharing advice on how to further develop a healthy lifestyle. The amount of presentations that groups facilitated this summer and the number of targeted observers that participated in these presentations was astounding, all due to the motivation of the students and their eagerness to work with local health promoters. Some students even gauged the number of people they believe were positively affected by their presentations and promotional work, and the results surely left them feeling satisfied.