Yazmyn – Oaxaca, Mexico

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Hi everyone! My name is Yazmyn and I’m a Junior studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in Community Action and Social Change. This past Spring I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico with the Spanish for Health Professionals Program through the UM School of Nursing for a month.

Going abroad to a foreign country for a month left me with mixed feelings before and after. All the time before I departed I did my best to prepare, reading blogs, quadruple checking my packing list, as well as talking to any and everyone who has left for an abroad trip. At the time, I thought I knew everything I needed to know, and still felt prepared, but little did I know what I was in for. Being dropped in any foreign country for a long period of time is nothing you can ever prepare yourself enough for. When I landed, under all my excitement was an underlying fear of the unknown. I was in a country where I was obviously the minority, (which really opened my eyes to how truly America is a melting pot) as well as I barely knew the language. Even the most trivial things we’re challenging.

Last day of Classes with our Maestros

Communication is something that is very key in any situation, and me not being fluent made it very difficult. Through out my time I learned to communicate in different ways with the locals as well as with my fellow participants. Being forced to fabricate different ways to get your point across, really helped me when it came to solving problems, as well as everyday conversation.

Overall as a leader I grew in a plentiful amount of ways. Lastly, the way I think I improved most would be my overall confidence. Being around people I am not comfortable with makes it hard to open up. And within the month I felt more comfortable and my confidence increased tremendously. Through this experience it empowered me to take control of the situation and always be confident in myself. Confidence is a key trait to being an effective leader, because people don’t like to follow uncertainty. And I’m glad I was able to be challenged and in the end over come.

Tacos con Quesillo

During this time I was able to experience all different parts of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is known as the food capital of Mexico, and during the time I took advantage of trying all the different types of cuisines. Including their delicacy Chapulines, which we know as cooked grasshoppers. All through out the markets people sell different types of Chapulines, tiny to giant, seasoned with different spices to no spice, and either grilled, fried, or broiled. It was common to just snack on (like Sunflower seeds to us), or use as an ingredient in cooking (adds a little crunch). Being the food capital comes with so much more than cooked grasshoppers. My favorite was the Oaxacan cheese (Quesillo) , it was put on top of most dishes as you can see on the left. But other foods Oaxaca was known for include Mole, Tlayudas, Chocolate, Tamales, to start.

During the week when I wasn’t enjoying all the delicious food Oaxaca had to offer, I was at class at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca (ICO). Anyone is able to enroll in there classes and programs, and because it we had very diverse classes. ICO is where we took all our classes, left for our cultural excursions, and more. A typical day for the first 2 weeks consisted of an intensive Spanish Class for 3 hours then conversation hour in which we spoke with our group about any topic as long as it was all in Spanish. Then we would have 2 hours for lunch, in which I got to try all the cuisine, and sometimes take a nap. Next we had Intercambio where we were assigned a local, who was trying to learn English. We would then split the time up, half speaking English, and the other half speaking Spanish. And lastly we would spend the last 2 hours of our day in Medical Spanish course where we covered all different aspects of Medicine in Mexico (from traditional medicine, type of health facilities, and more).

After classes, we would eat and explore the town. Since we all stayed in homestays, we learned from our Oaxacan families where the safest places to go were. My go to spot would have to be the centro, Zócalo, which was a market full of food, handi

Church of Santo Domingo

crafts, and clothing just to name a few. Outside of the centro of Oaxaca, many people live in the surrounding villages where their indigenous culture were still maintained. It was common for people to travel daily to these markets in order to sell their craft, and make the money needed for them to provide for their families. In the centro there were also more store fronts, restaurants, and beautiful churches. On the right is the famous Church of Santo Domingo and a glimpse of a customary wedding ceremony.

Last day volunteering at Cuidando Ángeles

Cuidando Ángeles

For the second half of the month instead of going to intensive Spanish in the morning, we volunteered. My volunteer sight was Cuidando Ángeles (Caring for Angels), which was a physical therapy facility which specialized in children with cerebral palsy. Through this experience I got to utilize my Spanish skills, as well as help and engage with the children at the center. While there, we would help the kids with the the activities everyday, from dancing, to painting, to stretching and sense stimulation.

On the weekends we went on excursions to different cultural sites. And during this time I think I grew the most in my leadership skills. Being in an unfamiliar environment with out structure provided ample room for growth, and I am so glad I got the opportunity to participate in this program. Wherever you go, Go Blue!

‘Block M’ on the step of the Mitla Ruins

Michigan Health Aid – Ann Arbor, MI

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Michigan Health Aid enormously benefitted from the BLI large grant given to us in the winter 2015 semester. In our proposal we outlined our plan to have a large health screening held at the beginning of this fall term. We still followed the steps in our timeline but at an expedited process and also added a new component to our health program. In our proposal we described our process of setting up a health screening, teaching members how to run a screening and compiling the data to use for research/analysis
purposes. Due to additional sources of funding from the DOW sustainability grant we were able to hold a screening on March 25th, 2015.

The screening was held at Bethesda Bible Church in Ypsilanti. Our CCPS (community coordinated preventative screening) team worked together to find the location and the correct time for the screening. The first and third Wednesday of each month Bethesda Bible Church holds a food pantry for community members. We decided to partner with this event. Over the course of two hours our physician saw 15 patients. Each patient had different concerns and issues that they had the opportunity to discuss with the physician. Many of the patients came to the screening with multiple children and thanked us for the convenience of our screening, as it was difficult for them to commute to see a physician while watching their multiple children. Other patients wanted to solely check their blood pressure to make sure they were in the healthy range their physicians told them to stay within. This type of patient was hopeful to see because it showed that the message provided from their physician had resonated and they were carefully and responsibly watching their blood pressure. The physician who volunteered for the screening was an OBGYN. Physician recruitment is often the most difficult part of our screening so we ask our members to connect with the physicians they know in the area. Our member asked his mom and she was thrilled to volunteer. This allowed for a unique opportunity for a parent to be part of the philanthropy their student is involved with. Dr. Clubb was impressed with the screening and expressed interest in coming back to volunteer again.

While we intended on having another screening over the summer, we could not recruit a willing physician. Instead, for the second year in a row, we participated in the Juneteenth Event. This event honors the announcement of the abolition of slavery. It is a national day of celebration, and the Ann Arbor chapter of the NAACP holds the event at Wheeler Park. Instead of bringing a screening to this event, we adapted it into a health fair. We printed hundreds of informative pamphlets and our members taught interested community members on the basics of living a healthy sustainable lifestyle. One of our members is a phlebotomist and thus we still offered to take blood glucose and cholesterol levels. 21 people had their glucose and cholesterol levels taken and 31 had their blood pressure measured. This type of event was an experiment and the community members appreciated us being there and found it useful. Thus, as an organization, we considered it a successful event.

Our events caught the attention of local community leaders such as the president of the NAACP who thanked us for being at the event and the executive assistant to the sheriff, Kathy Wyatt, who has been supporting us for multiple years now.

These two events taught our team how to be more dynamic. In an effort to still provide an impactful event to the community, we had to pivot from our standard health screenings to adapting to an event without a physician. This is a valuable lesson that we will continue to as a growing organization with more projects

and more student members. These two events touched 46 community members and will continue to impact the community as we continue to grow and build on the foundation we have.

Alison – Accra and Kumasi, Ghana

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The Barger scholarship helped facilitate my trip to Ghana this summer with the International Programs in Engineering project, Design for Global Development. Along with two other students, I spent a total of 8 weeks this summer at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra as well as the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

The first five weeks in Ghana were spent in Accra. The three of us worked with three University of Ghana biomedical engineering students to complete the preliminary steps of a senior design project. The overall goal was to immerse ourselves into the daily lives of the doctors and nurses at the hospital and do a “deep dive” with the hopes of learning more about maternal health and identifying a challenge that could be addressed with an engineering design project. The first two weeks were spent doing general observations in various parts of the obstetrics and gynecology department of the hospital. We spent time on the labor ward, the recovery ward, the outpatient department, the gynecology emergency room, both the labor and gynecology operating rooms and the family planning center. There were also other international students at the hospital, but most all of them were doing exchanges as medical students. It was a challenge to explain to nurses and doctors what our goals were for the project. One of our struggles was to help them understand why we wanted to simply watch what they were doing and explain that we were unfortunately unable to assist in any sort of procedure. It also took us some time to master the art of observing and understanding what were simply differences in the way things were done versus true challenges. Also, some things that we perceived to be challenges were not necessarily problems in the eyes of the doctors and nurses.

The third week we continued to observe, and created a down selection rubric to begin narrowing down the over 60 needs statements that we had created to a top ten. We scored the needs on categories such as doctor interest, market size, existing solutions, and if it fit within the scope of the senior design class that would be taking in the fall. We presented to the staff at the daily morning meeting to gather more of their feedback on the things we had identified to be the top challenges the obstetrics and gynecology department faced. Ultimately, we decided to focus on post partum hemorrhage based on the need for a device to treat primary post partum hemorrhage in cases of uterine atony.

The following week we began to gather information for our user requirements. We started to interview doctors and nurses that would potentially be the future users of this device to try and uncover features that this device needed to have as well as features that would be nice to have. Furthermore, we tried to gather even more information so that we would be able to quantify these requirements during the design process in the class. It was again challenging to help the doctors understand the kind of information that we wanted. When we asked them what they considered desirable features of this hypothetical device, they often would resort to explaining something that already existed but that they wanted, or they would begin just talking about post partum hemorrhage itself and how it occurs. We had to learn how to phrase our questions to get the information that we wanted, and it still sometimes did not work. Another thing we learned was that sometimes it was better to focus on one feature of the device and try to get as much information from that person on that specific feature. Instead of asking about all the things we thought might be important, we might press them to truly understand what it meant for a device to be portable. What physical size should it be? How much should it weigh? Does it need to have wheels? What about a handle to carry it? Asking these questions to doctors and nurses in between patients or right after a meeting was another challenge. We had gone into this experience thinking we would be able to sit down and conduct focused interviews with staff, when in reality we had to illicit the information whenever we had the chance.

The last week we continued to develop our user requirements as well as begin to sketch ideas for our solutions to be able to show these same stakeholders. The hope was to be able to gather even more information about what they thought about these designs and how we should change them or what they liked or disliked about them. It was again not as easy as we would have hoped, but we were able to get some helpful information. The last day at Korle Bu, we presented once again at the morning meeting to inform the staff of our topic and the information that we had gathered so far, and that we would be returning to school to work on the project and generate a prototype. We said that we would share our design report and prototype with them upon completion of the project and that we would most likely be seeking more information from them about the design.

The last three weeks were spent in Kumasi, a city farther north that was a little quieter, a little smaller, and much greener than Accra. We went through the same process, but without the first two weeks of observations. Because other groups had already gone in the past to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, we compiled all of their needs statements into one document and then narrowed that down to a top thirty. Our first week there we completed general observations, while also down selecting the previously identified needs. With the help of one of the senior doctors, we further narrowed down our thirty needs, and with the help of our professor, narrowed it down to a top ten. We then consulted 4 senior doctors to help us select our one project topic, based on their interest and perceived priority of the needs we had identified. We then selected the project topic as a way to convert labor beds into delivery beds. This was based on information the doctors had given us along with our own observations. The next week we spent doing focused observations in the labor ward, witnessing deliveries as well as talking to the midwives, nurses, and doctors that spent a lot of time there. During this week, we again were trying to gather similar information to Korle Bu, which was information to help us develop user requirements for our device once we got back to school. The final week we were there we began sketching ideas and showing them to people, trying to help them to understand what we were thinking and hoping to get feedback from them. We presented our findings on the very last day we were there at the morning meeting, and informed them of what they could expect from our project.

From this experience, I learned many different things. I learned the difficulties and challenges faced when not only working in a new culture, but in attempting to navigate a fragile atmosphere while trying to be the least intrusive as possible. I learned how to practice patience and how to adapt to situations when they did not go as we expected. I learned how to work with students of different backgrounds and with different work ethics than myself. I was challenged mentally both by the actual work we were completing and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Traveling to Ghana this summer proved to be quite difficult, but also rather rewarding in the end. This was an invaluable experience that I would not have had the opportunity to complete without this scholarship.