Members of the USC School of Pharmacy’s chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) conducted health fairs and provided health education programs in Belize in December, reaching out to a population that often lacks these services.
The students traveled to Hattieville Village, a small town 16 miles from any major city. The village was established in 1961 as a refugee camp when many were left homeless from Hurricane Hattie.
Pharm.D candidates Ruth Awosika and Toni Codling were leaders of the project. Other students on the trip included Raymond Shum, Sylvia Nguyen, Jaclyn Kaladjian and Vineeta Jagitiani. They were joined by USC students from the Master’s of Public Health program, pre-health students from the African Americans in Health organization and a physician assistant from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Gustavus A. Aranda Jr. PharmD ’04 was the preceptor for the trip, which had a special meaning for the native of Belize.
“Our mission was to provide service to areas that are most in need,” Aranda said. “The students did a multitude of things, including providing health education at local orphanages and conducting screenings at a local health fair.”
During its travels, the interdisciplinary group visited four orphanages and safe homes, two churches, an elementary school and a juvenile detention center. At these sites, the students presented interactive educational materials on hygiene, poison prevention and HIV/AIDS awareness. They also provided toys, school supplies, clothes and shoes to the local children.
The group also collaborated with Belizean health professionals to organize a health fair, where the students provided screenings for hypertension and diabetes and educated patients about medications.
“Having a multidisciplinary team was unique, and it contributed to the overall success of the trip,” Awosika said.
The trip represented a continuation of SNPhA’s dedication to international outreach. The association previously organized Christmas mission trips to Jamaica and participated in medical missions to Tijuana, Mexico.
“Spending such a long period of time in a foreign country helps you discover strengths and abilities that you never knew you had, and you’ll be able to take these skills with you throughout life,” Shum said.
Codling, who took part in two Christmas trips to Jamaica and acted as student leader for the most recent journey, found her experience in Belize to be unique.
“The knowledge and experiences gained from Project Belize was eye-opening and inspiring to say the least,” she said. “The beauty and vibrant nature of the people and richness of their culture almost blinded you to the many challenges they are facing in the field of health care. This made the fact that we were able to undertake our first health fair abroad even more rewarding.”
The trip was made possible by Walter Cathey, special assistant to the dean for diversity and SNAPhA adviser; adjunct professor Edward Lieskovan PharmD ’85, MBA ’90; Virginia Luevano, a School of Pharmacy staff member; the USC Institute for Global Health; Walmart; and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.