Healthcare education goes beyond the classroom on Belize trip

This summer marked a milestone: After a pause due to the pandemic, overseas medical service travel has resumed for students pursuing health care degrees at Pittsburg State University.

Previous faculty-led trips have taken students majoring in pre-med, pre-med assistant, and nursing to Mexico, Peru, Romania, and Belize — the country this summer’s cohort is in. is rendered.

“For many of them, it was their first time leaving the country,” said biology professor Dan Zurek, a pre-medical adviser who led the trip.

They began preparing last spring, inspired by stories of PSU pre-med alumni who had made similar journeys as students and as medical professionals after graduation.

“We learned how to take blood pressure, clinical procedures and things like medical Spanish,” said Taylor Wixson, a young medical student from Pittsburg who plans to become an emergency physician.

“We heard Dr. Peak, one of our teachers, and Dr. Bryan, an alumnus, talk about their past trips to Belize, so we knew what to expect and were prepared,” she added. .

The 10-day trip included several days of clinical work, from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, in villages surrounding their home port of St. Ignacio in western Belize.

“When we arrived at the clinic each day, there were dozens of people waiting for us,” Wixson said.

They learned how to do patient intake, including mapping primary complaints and vital signs, under the guidance of an experienced doctor from Cuba affiliated with the local non-governmental organization Heart to Heart Belize.

Belizean patient

Belize Stethoscope

Kaydn Matlock, a junior pre-med student from Pittsburgh who could go into orthopedics, said the trip opened the eyes of students who had spent their lives in the United States.

“Parents came to our clinics to get vitamins for their children,” she said. “They wanted things that here are very basic and that we take for granted.”

Wixson said it was the first time most of them had been surrounded by “so much need”.

“We cared for a very sallow middle-aged man with liver failure who didn’t do what he needed to, health-wise, due to the cost and accessibility of drugs,” Matlock said.


Other students on the trip included Ragan Abernathy, Shelby Aikins, Avery Altman, Morgan Blubaugh, Sydney Hillmer, Madeline Murdock, Jaiden Smith and Maddie Valencia.

Zurek said the trip was valuable because it required students to practice “the old style of medicine which is almost a forgotten art, or medicine practiced without access to our modern technologies and conveniences.”

Belize Iguana

temple in belize

It was also a valuable cultural experience, he noted: The students took time to visit Mayan temples, a coffee farm, a market, some natural wonders and Caye Caulker – an island that is a short distance by ferry from the coast. . And, they had the opportunity to snorkel with tarpon and stingrays.

Wixson and Matlock encouraged other students majoring in a healthcare-related field to join a future trip.

Learn more

Interested in a medical service trip? Contact Zurek.

Interested in healthcare? Explore the following programs at Pittsburg State:

Pre-medical / pre-dental

Pre-medical assistant

Feeding with milk

Helen D. Jessen